Mus­lims taken off Min­neapo­lis flight af­ter ‘pe­cu­liar’ be­hav­ior

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Au­drey Hud­son

A half-dozen Mus­lims were re­moved from a US Air­ways flight in Min­neapo­lis on the evening of Nov. 20 af­ter ner­vous pas­sen­gers alerted the flight crew about sus­pi­cious be­hav­ior.

The men, who of­fi­cials later learned were Is­lamic re­li­gious lead­ers, re­fused to leave the plane and were es­corted by se­cu­rity off Flight 300 from Min­neapo­lis-St. Paul In­ter­na­tional Air­port to Phoenix at 6:30 p.m.

Con­flict­ing re­ports say the men were pray­ing in the con­course or on the plane, and a Min­nesota television re­ported that the imams were chant­ing “Al­lah, Al­lah, Al­lah,” as they left the plane.

Douglas Hag­mann, di­rec­tor of the North­east Intelligence Net­work, a private or­ga­ni­za­tion that in­ves­ti­gates ter­ror­ist threats, said his con­tacts are re­port­ing the men did be­gin the prayers in the con­course, then con­tin­ued prayers and dis­cus­sions once on board.

“One of the pas­sen­gers who un­der­stands Ara­bic passed a note to the crew that what she heard, she did not like,” Mr. Hag­mann said.

Pa­trick Ho­gan, spokesman for the Min­neapo­lis-St. Paul Metropoli­tan Air­ports Com­mis­sion, said the men re­port­edly made anti-Amer­i­can state­ments re­lat­ing to the Iraq war, asked to change seats once inside the cabin, and that one re­quested an ex­ten­der to make his seat belt larger even though he did not ap­pear to need it.

“There was some pe­cu­liar be­hav­ior,” Mr. Hag­mann said.

In a state­ment re­leased by US Air­ways on Nov. 21, the air­line said they “are dili­gently con­duct­ing our own in­ves­ti­ga­tion” and work­ing with law-en­force­ment of­fi­cials and gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

“We are al­ways con­cerned when pas­sen­gers are in­con­ve­nienced and es­pe­cially con­cerned when a sit­u­a­tion oc­curs that causes cus­tomers to feel their dig­nity was com­pro­mised. We do not tol­er­ate dis­crim­i­na­tion of any kind and will con­tinue to ex­haust our in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­til we know the facts of this case and can pro­vide an­swers for the em- ploy­ees and cus­tomers in­volved in this in­ci­dent,” the state­ment said.

The imams, along with Rep.elect Keith El­li­son, Min­nesota Demo­crat and the first Mus­lim elected to Congress, had at­tended a con­fer­ence in Min­neapo­lis of the North Amer­i­can Imams Fed­er­a­tion.

A call and e-mail for com­ment to Mr. El­li­son’s cam­paign of­fice were not re­turned.

The imams and of­fi­cials of the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions (CAIR) say the men were vic­tims of prej­u­dice and ig­no­rance.

“We are con­cerned that crew mem­bers, pas­sen­gers and secu- rity per­son­nel may have suc­cumbed to fear and prej­u­dice based on stereo­typ­ing of Mus­lims and Is­lam,” said Ni­had Awad, CAIR’s di­rec­tor. “CAIR is re­ceiv­ing more re­ports of ‘fly­ing while Mus­lim’ and racial pro­fil­ing in­ci­dents from mem­bers of the Is­lamic com­mu­nity na­tion­wide.”

The group is call­ing for con­gres­sional hear­ings on racial, re­li­gious and eth­nic pro­fil­ing at air­ports, and in­ves­ti­ga­tions by the Jus­tice and Home­land Se­cu­rity de­part­ments. The Of­fice for Civil Rights and Civil Lib­er­ties at DHS has al­ready opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Mr. Hag­mann called the in­ci­dent “ide­o­log­i­cal ji­had” and a “test run” to un­der­mine air­port se­cu­rity through lit­i­ga­tion.

“This is a wa­ter­shed event in this coun­try — one week be­fore Thanks­giv­ing when ten­sions are high — and they are look­ing for this to be lit­i­gated ad nau­seam,” Mr. Hag­mann said.

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