Three probes dis­miss imams’ racism claim

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Au­drey Hud­son

Three par­al­lel in­ves­ti­ga­tions into ther­e­moval­of­six­i­mams­fro­maUS Air­waysflight­last­mon­th­haveso­far con­cluded that the air­line acted prop­erly, that the imams’ claims they were merely pray­ing and their evic­tion was racially in­spired are with­out foun­da­tion.

An in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the air­line found that air and ground crews “acted cor­rectly” when they re­quested that the Mus­lim men be re­moved from a Min­neapo­lis-toPhoenix flight on Nov. 20.

“We­be­lievethe­ground­cre­wand em­ploy­ees acted cor­rectly and did what they are sup­posed to do,” US Air­ways spokes­woman An­drea Rader said.

OmarShahin—one­oftheimams and the group’s spokesman — said the­men­did­not­be­have­out­ofthe­o­r­di­nary while on the plane, and that pas­sen­gers over­re­acted be­cause some of the imams con­ducted prayers in the con­course be­fore board­ing.

US Air­ways’ in­ves­ti­ga­tion is “sub­stan­tially com­plete” but Miss Rader said air­line of­fi­cials still want to meet with the imams to re­view the sit­u­a­tion. “We’re look­ing at it as a se­cu­rity is­sue and as a cus­tom­erser­vice is­sue and where we might need to do out­reach,” she said.

Air­line of­fi­cials have had sev­eral dis­cus­sions with Mr. Shahin, but a meet­ing sched­uled for Dec. 4 with all six men was can­celed at the imams’ re­quest.

“We talked with crew mem­bers and pas­sen­gers and those on the ground. We’ve done what we typ­i­cally do in a sit­u­a­tion where there is a re­moval or some kind of cus­tomer ser­vice at is­sue,” Miss Rader said. “We found out the facts are sub­stan­tially the same, and the imams were de­tained be­cause of the con­cerns crew mem­bers had based on the be­hav­ior they ob­served, and from re­ports by the cus­tomers.”

The Min­neapo­lis air­port po­lice de­part­ment’s re­port on the in­ci­dent saidtheimams’be­hav­ior­war­ranted their re­moval. The imams were not ac­cused of break­ing any laws.

The De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity’s (DHS) Of­fice of Civil Rights and Civil Lib­er­ties is re­view­ing the ac­tions of de­part­ment mem­bers who were in­volved in the in­ci­dent.

Se­cret Ser­vice agents ques­tioned the imams, who are ac­cused of mak­ing neg­a­tive com­ments about Pres­i­dent Bush and the Iraq war. Of­fi­cials of the Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion were in­volved in screen­ing the imams and their bag­gage.

“There is no in­di­ca­tion there is any in­ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tiv­ity, at least no in­di­ca­tion at this time,” DHS spokesman Russ Knocke said. “To my knowl­edge, we are only do­ing a re­view, and that is a fairly rou­tine prac­tice with in­ci­dents like this.”

The Air Car­rier Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee of the Air Line Pi­lots As­so­ci­a­tion in­ves­ti­gated the in­ci­dent and said, “The crew’s ac­tions were strictly in com­pli­ance with pro­ce­dures and demon­strated over­all good judg­ment in the care and con­cern for their pas­sen­gers, fel­low crew mem­bers, and the com­pany.”

“The de­ci­sions made by all the par­ties were made as a re­sult of the be­hav­ior of the pas­sen­gers and not as a re­sult of their eth­nic­ity,” the re­port con­cluded.

The sus­pi­cious be­hav­ior cited in there­port­in­cluded“chang­ingseats, stat­ing anti-war, anti U.S.-Iraq in­volve­ment,neg­a­tivecom­mentscon­cern­ing the pres­i­dent of the United States.” The re­port noted that “two of the pas­sen­gers re­quest­ing seat­belt ex­ten­sions when their body size did not ap­pear to war­rant their use.”

Mr. Shahin told television re­porters that he needed the seat-belt ex­ten­sion be­cause he weighs 280 pounds. How­ever, the po­lice re­port lists his weight as 201 pounds. Weights listed for the other imams ranged from 170 pounds to 250 pounds.

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