Spike In 'Flying While Muslim' Incidents

Civil Rights

 While a majority of Muslim passengers fly without incidents, there is noticeable spike in instances of profiling. From switching seats to doing math equations, to saying in sha Allah, to looking at the cabin crew, Muslims or people who look Arab have been deplaned. 

Within the past six months alone, eleven racial and religious profiling incidents have been reported, including five since April 1, 2016, according to Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy and educational organization.

In a flight from Chicago to New Mexico, a North Carolina man ripped off a Muslim woman's hijab and screamed "This is America!" during a Southwest Airlines flight late last year. He has since entered a plea agreement according to court documents.

Locally, Hakima Abdulle, a resident of Takoma Park, MD was on a Seattle bound Southwest Airline flightóexcited as she was on the way to help take care of a new mother in the family; her niece was expecting a baby.

The sister, who speaks Somali and a little English, asked the passenger next to her to switch seats with her so she could sit next to the window. He agreed. As Southwest has an open seating policy this would normally not be a big deal until the flight attendant had problem with her seat change. She intervened, telling them they could not move, according to Zainab Chaudry of CAIR-MD.

Police arrived and escorted Abdulle, much to her humiliation, because the flight attendant told police that she did not feel comfortable. Abdulle, who wears a headscarf, was then booted off the plane, which had not taken off the tarmac.

"Without an adequate explanation as to why this Muslim passenger was removed from the flight and humiliated in front of other†travelers, we must call for an investigation of a possible bias motive for the actions of the flight crew," said Chaudry.

"We don't know for sure whether this was a case of religious bias, but because we have received no credible explanation, we're going public," she said.

Abdulle and her husband, Abukar Fadaw, want an apology from Southwest and training for their airline's staff. According to Fadaw, who was on the phone to his wife at the time of the incident, the staff ignored him when he asked them why his wife was removed from the flight.

'She was humiliated because of her religion and the way she dressed," he said. 

Abdalle was crying and 'suffered extreme distress and anxiety as a result of this experience," said her husband in a press conference arranged by CAIR.

Recently, an Italian, Guido Menzio, who is a Ivy League professor, was removed from an American Airlines flight because the woman sitting next to him expressed concerns after seeing him writing math equations in a notebook. Menzio, who has ëdark, curly hair, olive skin and an exotic foreign accent," was taken off the plane for questioning.

Muslim Advocates and NAACP Legal Defense Fund in a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation urged the department to take immediate action to enforce federal anti-discrimination prohibitions.  

The letter demands a full investigation and public report on investigation findings regarding all alleged instances of racial and religious profiling involving Muslim passengers, require any air carrier found to have profiled passengers on the basis of their race or religion to take appropriate remedial action; Implement regulations requiring airline personnel to undergo discrimination training; and track and publish monthly summaries of the discrimination complaints filed against U.S. airlines and subsequent actions taken by the Department in response.

CAIR has released a pamphlet advising Muslims on their rights as citizens, with a special section on how to deal with discrimination by airlines.ttv