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Anti-Muslim Bigotry

Nine Muslim Passengers Removed from AirTran Flight


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Nine passengers were removed yesterday from an AirTran flight. Apparently two made some “suspicious” comments, which in retrospect were completely benign, yet not only these two, but a few other passengers were removed! All the passengers don’t even seem to be related. In fact, one person is African-American, while the others are of Indo-Pak descent!

These passengers need to SUE AirTran!

Muslims cannot be treated like second-class citizens. This is no different than Rosa Parks, who refused to give her seat up for a white passenger. The issue about “suspicious” comments is pure nonsense and an excuse for stripping Muslims off their civil rights. Everyone knows that making a joke about security will land a person in jail, so if indeed these passengers had said something which was akin to a verbal threat (even jokingly), then they would be in jail. And the fact that they are not, implies that other passengers either misunderstood or lied. Regardless, once the FBI had questioned and cleared them, they should have been allowed to fly. More importantly, why were other passengers removed? Just because they were Muslims??

Even after being cleared by the FBI, who were kind enough to arrange these people a flight on US Airways, AirTran refused to reseat them. This is PURE Islamophobia, and a clear case of illegal profiling. And this is not the first time AirTran’s flight crew did this (I wonder if there are common flight crew personnel between the two cases). See this post from Ahmed Bedier, which includes audio PROOF of how PURE profiling got two passengers kicked off another AirTran flight in September 2006. I have added the youtube version of the audio all the way at the bottom.

CAIR’s News Article below the video:

[youtube -yMqignG8EU]

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said that nine American Muslims, most of them headed to Florida for a vacation with family members, were removed from an AirTran Airways flight Thursday afternoon at Reagan National Airport.

The group said the incident began when another passenger complained about something that was said while boarding.

“We were talking about seat placement,” one of the detained passengers said. “We were in the back … started talking about safest place to sit. Maybe someone gleaned into that that we were planning to do something to the plane.”

AirTran acknowledged that nine people were detained for questioning after boarding Flight 175 headed to Orlando International Airport.

AirTran released the following statement:
“At departure time, the captain informed the airline that there were two federal air marshals on board who contacted local Washington law enforcement officials for a security related issue on board the aircraft involving verbal comments made by a passenger and overheard by other passengers. The airline then advised the Transportation Security Administration.”

Upon arriving at the gate and interrogating several passengers, the TSA determined that the 104 passengers on board must deplane and all passengers, crew and bags should be re-screened.

After the re-screening of the passengers, crew, bags and the aircraft, 95 passengers were allowed to re-board the aircraft and nine were detained for interrogation by the local law enforcement officials and the TSA.

Flight 175 departed nearly two hours late and arrived safely at its destination. AirTran Airways complied with all TSA, law enforcement and Homeland Security directives and had no discretion in the matter.”

CAIR said the passengers who were detained were refused re-booking by the airline despite being cleared by federal authorities. (MORE)


Police Audio: AirTran Removes Muslim Passengers Because “Iranian” Look
[youtube WcCRV9sdDqI]

Related Posts:

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Abu Reem is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Abu Reem is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").



  1. Arif

    January 2, 2009 at 11:10 PM

  2. Amad

    January 2, 2009 at 11:11 PM

    My message to AirTran:

    Your shameful actions in removing Muslim passengers from the DC flight (let me say unrelated Muslim passengers) will not go unnoticed. As a writer on one of the most popular Muslim blogs as well as another popular progressive blog, we will ensure that fair-minded individuals disregard AirTran the next time they are booking travel.

    This is not the first time. On August 20, 2006, two passengers were removed due to having “Iranian appearance”.

    I think your staff needs some serious education because they obviously missed the fact that civil rights laws passed decades ago.


  3. Amad

    January 2, 2009 at 11:12 PM

    Arif, too little, too late. Of course they will apologize because the heat’s on. But this is the second time they did this, and they deserve all they can get.

    I should add that your post did a good job of summarizing everything. Nice!

  4. Hidaya

    January 2, 2009 at 11:22 PM

    I just saw this on CNN, and I log on to MM, they have it as well. MashaAllah, that was quick!

    It is very shameful especially after FBI gave them clearance..Subhan’Allah!

  5. Bee

    January 2, 2009 at 11:44 PM

    What other progressive blog are you referring to? :) Just wondering.

  6. Amad

    January 2, 2009 at 11:55 PM

    I meant politically-progressive (not religiously)… Dailykos.

  7. ASC

    January 3, 2009 at 1:25 AM

    How shameful. The sad part is is that most Americans probably think the airline did the right thing. As muslims, we are treated more and more like second class citizens everyday, and its time we speak up and take action when people behave this way towards us. We need to let them know that we wont be silenced by their continued discrimination towards us.

    Also, we should boycott flying on AirTran and also encourage other muslims we know to do the same.

  8. sincethestorm

    January 3, 2009 at 2:24 AM

    ASC, I don’t think speaking up is going to help. Its like crying wolf….People get immune to it. African Americans have been complaining about blatant discrimination after the civil rights movement. Most Americans whether white or not, believe they are lazy and are too dependant on assistance programs. To nip the root of the problem is to change the image that is constantly propagated in the media. Once that is achieved, the cases of profiling will automatically decrease.

  9. netinsurancequote

    January 3, 2009 at 4:53 AM

    What other progressive blog are you referring to? :) Just wondering.

  10. Sadaf Farooqi

    January 3, 2009 at 5:58 AM

    I came across something related to this incident on Huffington Post that totally enraged me! You can read it here.
    I mean, how worse can Islamophobia get?! It’s not funny.

  11. Muhammad Abdul-Saboor

    January 3, 2009 at 8:35 AM

    As salaamu alaykum to all,

    I just wanted to say that for some reason it bothers me that when some form of oppression occurs related to an individuals civil rights they seem to liken it to the oppression that occurred to African-Americans from the moment they were sold, shackled, and forced into labor. There is a long history behind the oppression of African-Americans and the struggle for basic civil rights. For someone to be forced off of a plane due to their “choice of appearance or religion” or told that you can not marry someone due to their “choice of sexual oreintation” in no way compares to being forced to labor night and day and in return be called lazy and shiftless and denied basic human rights because of your race, over which you have no control. Oppression is oppression wherever it occurs, however, to compare certain events is to devalue the significance of others and blur the path to the correct solution. In no way were these passengers like Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks was denied a basic right because of the color of her skin. These brothers and sisters were denied a right because of the religion they have chosen, the appearance they have chosen, and the behavior of a few misguided individuals who have made similar choices. That doesn’t make it right and I definitely will not be flying AirTran in the future. However, addressing a problem requires proper analysis and perspective.

  12. Organica

    January 3, 2009 at 8:41 AM

    Seriously, this is so sad. So from now on as a Muslim woman I am expected to sing happy songs to comfort the passengers around me that I am not planning to blow up?


    Get over it!

  13. Meredith

    January 3, 2009 at 8:43 AM

    Good for Air Tran! I just sent them an email of support and will send this message out to everyone I know. I am so SICK of the ‘poor little misunderstood Muslim’ routine. Muslims/Arabs are routinely blowing up children and other innocent people and we have the right to protect ourselves. I’ve always flown Air Tran, when possible, and this just cements my commitment to them.

  14. MM Associates

    January 3, 2009 at 9:43 AM

    bismillah. [abu abdAllah]

    @organica — just read the bile posted by “Meredith” in the comment that follows yours. if you were singing “happy songs” you would probably still be reported. people who hate Muslims will always hate Muslims. especially if you fit what looks like a Muslim to them, then you could smile and offer to shake hands, and they would suspect that you were engaging in biological warfare. sing a song, and it must be a song of martyrdom. hug your children close to you, and there must be something sinister at work because, after all, you’re a Muslim.

    the bigotry was more likely that of the Air Tran pilot than that of the whole airline — a pilot can refuse to accept any passenger, and does not have to justify himself. but it says something about how bigoted such a pilot would be, not to trust the FBI which cleared all the Muslims involved ON THE SPOT.

    i mean, we complain a lot about the FBI. but these particular agents really did a fantastic effort here. and that should not be overlooked.

    i cannot read “Meredith”‘s mind, but if she loves Air Tran so much for its denial of service to innocent people, then she must be seething about the FBI. :)

  15. BostonMuslim

    January 3, 2009 at 9:52 AM

    ignore Meredith she is just ignorant.
    I probably will not go on Air Tran again – but that’s good to them right, they don’t want any muslims anyway

  16. ShaamPeace

    January 3, 2009 at 11:13 AM

    For Meredith (the Ignorant, and Frank Dejuddici –> Ignorant and a Hater) :

    There is the Creator above you. Dont forget that human life is fragile and your life will end just like your ancestor. Then what are you going to answer to God? Do you even believe in God? Despite your blindness, I still hope that God shows you the Right Way. Stop hating, I bet even your heart can be cured, if only you stop hating first, and stop being ignorant.


  17. Pingback: Nine Muslim Passengers Removed from AirTran Flight « Respite with Mohamed Ali

  18. Amad

    January 3, 2009 at 1:52 PM

    salam Br. Mohammed,
    Thanks for the comments. I agree that the two civil-rights movements and issues are not equivalent in their history or their oppression. However, in my humble opinion, that is not a necessary and required condition for analogy. What I mean is that an analogy can use a thread that is common between two incidents, i.e., “a similarity between like features of two things, on which a comparison may be based”.

    So, the similarity of being refused rights to travel on a form of transportation, which was similarly based on bigotry and prejudice, are common threads running through the two incidents. Yes, one bigotry had much more history and oppression, but in the end both are still forms of bigotry, and both led to the stripping of civil-rights of a human being in this country.

    Also, I think it helps to remind people of the great sacrifices that people before us made, like Rosa Parks, in establishing a sense of civil-rights for all future generations. It is the greatness of the original incident that allows us to sit in its shade and take assistance from it.

    I hope I made some sense here… jazakallahkhair

  19. mulsimah

    January 3, 2009 at 10:01 PM

    there is obvious islamaphobia going on so I was wondering why the family would talk about which seat is safest. … it does sound weird to be honestly .. but maybe not to them, after all we werent there.

    Im just saying that if somebody was saying weird things for your and your childrens safety wouldnt you want the off the plane? Im saying this didnt have to be deliberate, there could be real fear. people cannot always help that.. media always saying muslims and terror go together.

    just another perspective…

  20. ummabullahs

    January 4, 2009 at 9:23 PM

    Salamualaikum to all Muslims

    We Muslim must boycott to fly with Air Tran. If you listen talk between Air tran and police, there is nothing except PHOBIA. Good for Air Tran to live with PHOBIA and fly with PHOBIA. unless, otherwise, you are GUIDED.

  21. MM

    January 5, 2009 at 5:04 AM


    I agree that we should boycott the AirTran, especially after what they did for the second time.

    That’s all I wanted to say.

  22. Farhan

    January 5, 2009 at 4:40 PM

    I would feel an intense brotherhood with the fellow removed passengers.
    (I don’t mean that at all in a cynical way)

  23. Saleha H.

    January 6, 2009 at 7:12 PM

    ^^^ Wow. TWO events in one week. Subhanallah, this is all pure phobia. And to imagine I actually thought bringing along your two small children would surely not get you checked at an airport. I’m so glad the T Shirt guy got his share out of it. and the best part is that it was all over the news. Alhamdulillah.

    P.S. i’m so buying that shirt.

  24. Umm Layth

    January 6, 2009 at 7:13 PM

    as salamu ‘alaykum

    This retreat they were attending was at the Suhba we just arrived from. My husband woke up early one morning and when he went to the main conference hall CNN was there interviewing the families.

    Alhamdulillah in every situation and alhamdulillah that it wasn’t worse.

  25. Hidaya

    January 6, 2009 at 8:56 PM => Hats off to them, they certainly have more courage & strength then most other Muslim countries.

  26. hania

    January 17, 2009 at 2:57 PM

    It is not far when muslims will be put in concentration camps.

  27. Muslim in America

    January 17, 2009 at 8:44 PM

    It is kind of a coincidence that I was flying to Orlando on the same day from JFK but on a JetBlue flight. I was wearing a kufi the entire trip and prayed in the terminal and nothing was done to me.

    – Muslim in America

  28. Umm Layth

    January 21, 2009 at 4:34 PM

    A lot of Muslims flew into Orlando that day actually but Allah chooses whom to test so Alhamdulillah for everything.

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