You’ve heard of “driving while Black?” Well, at US Airways they don’t allow flying while Muslim. Or that’s the impression we’re given by this NY Times story of six imams returning from a religious conference on a U.S. Airways flight. Their offense? They prayed too loudly while at the loading gate. I kid you not:
Six Muslim religious leaders were taken off a US Airways flight in Minneapolis on Monday evening and detained for several hours after some passengers and crew members complained of behavior they deemed suspicious, including prayers at the gate…
The six men detained, all imams, had attended a Minneapolis conference of the North American Imams Federation. They were handcuffed by the police and led off the flight, bound for Phoenix, after reports from passengers and crew members of “unsettling” behavior, according to a police report. One passenger had slipped a note to a flight attendant that began, “6 suspicious Arabic men on plane,” the report said.
To add insult to injury, after being released by the FBI, the men tried to rebook their flights since they still had their US Airways tickets. Here’s what happened:
…On Tuesday morning a US Airways ticket agent refused to book them on another flight to Phoenix. They returned instead on a Northwest Airlines flight.
CAIR’s statement (linked below) goes even further in noting the airline’s hostility toward the Muslim travelers:
US Airways refused…to assist them in obtaining tickets on another airline.
In another statement, a gate agent said some of the imams had been praying in Arabic in the gate area. “I was suspicious by the way they were praying very loud,” the agent said.
A second imam, Ahmad Tafish Shqeirat, said that three of the six had prayed in the gate area, in the ritual of evening prayers, but had not meant to be disruptive and indeed had taken pains not to disturb other passengers.
A passenger wrote a warning note to a flight attendant about the men claiming that before the flight they were “cursing U.S. involvement with Saddam.” Say what? Does this guy have his facts straight? We overturned Saddam. We weren’t involved with him. And if the imams were criticizing our support for Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war, well then–I’d have to agree with them. It was the height of hypocrisy for Cheney to shake Saddam’s hand in his royal palace in the 1980s, and then call him a dangerous megalomaniac whom the world must be rid of, in 2003. So why should anyone be suspected of being a terrorist because of believing that?
I bet if Pat Robertson led a worship service at a US Airways loading gate the company wouldn’t have had any problem. I bet even if someone spoke in tongues there wouldn’t have been problem.
It’s just a problem of flying while Muslim. So if you are, put away your prayer beads, prayer rug and you might even try some whiteface to lighten your complexion. Otherwise, US Airways has got your number.
It’s interesting that US Airways just proposed buying Delta Airlines. My last post was about a Delta Airlines contract company, Freedom Air, ejecting a nursing mother from a flight. I’d say both companies are made for each other. Maybe the motto of the new company could be “Look at Us Cross-Wise and You’re Outa Here, Chum!”
The Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has released a statement protesting the treatment and calling for Congressional hearings on racial profiling in public transportation settings.