“Airports are a scary place for Muslims,” says Dallas-Fort Worth imam. (But nowhere near as scary as they are for Americans seeing Muslims praying on the airport floor right before they get on a plane)
Dallas News Two Dallas-area Muslim men say their American Airlines flight was canceled because the crew “didn’t feel comfortable” after they waved to one another boarding a flight from Birmingham to DFW International Airport.
When they got off, they said they were trailed by law enforcement officers, interviewed by an FBI agent and had their bags searched again by TSA during their trip Saturday.
Abderraoof Alkhawaldeh, a Muslim motivational speaker from Irving, and Dallas nonprofit leader Issam Abdallah said it was a blatant act of racial profiling and they have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation against Fort Worth-based American. They said they want to talk with the airline’s leaders about their treatment and what they say is an increasing number of cases of discrimination against Arabs and Muslims.
“It was the most humiliating day of my life,” Abdallah said, speaking Thursday at the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. American spokeswoman LaKesha Brown said the flight was canceled as a result of “concerns raised by a crew member and a passenger.”
“American and all of its regional partners have an obligation to take safety and security concerns raised by crew members and passengers seriously,” she said in a statement. “All customers on Flight 5886 were rebooked on the next flight to DFW. We’re committed to providing a positive experience to everyone who travels with us. Our team is working with Mesa to review this incident.”
The men, who know each other from the local Muslim community, said they were traveling separately to a charity meeting in Birmingham. They were sitting in separate sections and waved to one another while boarding.
During a flight delay because of maintenance issues, Abdallah said he got up to use the restroom, and when he came out a flight attendant was standing unusually close to the restroom door. The crew soon announced that the flight was canceled. Alkhawaldeh said he overheard a crew member saying it was canceled for security reasons.
When they got off the plane, law enforcement officials were waiting for them. After some initial questioning, the men said they were let go but then tailed by a number of uniformed officers to a coffee shop and other areas.
After a few minutes, both men said they were again approached by law enforcement and taken into a private interrogation. They had their bags searched again by TSA officers.
Alkhawaldeh and Abdallah said while being interviewed by law officers, they were each told the flight was canceled because the crew didn’t feel comfortable flying with the two men. The fact that Abdallah flushed the toilet twice while using the airplane restroom also caused suspicion, Abdallah said he was told.
American has been under fire during the last two years for alleged hostilities toward Muslims.
In June, a Miami doctor said he was removed from an American flight for his Arab and Muslim appearance and for using a phone during takeoff. He is suing the airline in federal court.
Imam Omar Suleiman of Dallas said instances of racial profiling of Muslims are increasing, particularly at airports and on planes. “Airports are a scary place for Muslims,” said Suleiman, who founded the Yaqueen Institute for Islamic Research in Dallas. “Especially with the rhetoric of the president.” (And thank goodness for that)