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6 Muslim clerics removed from airliner urge boycott
The Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS — Six Muslim clerics removed from a US Airways flight said Tuesday they were victims of discrimination and called for a boycott of the airline.
The imams were removed from the flight to Phoenix on Monday night after three of them said their normal evening prayers in the terminal in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport before boarding, said Omar Shahin, president of the North American Imams Federation. They were among the 150 imams who attended a federation meeting in Minneapolis.
"The police came and take us off the plane in front of all the passengers in a very humiliated way," Shahin said. "I never felt bad in my life like yesterday. It was the worst moment in my life when I see six imams, six leaders in this community, humiliated."
They said they were questioned by police and the FBI, detained in a holding cell with loud music and occasionally surrounded by police dogs.
The Department of Homeland Security's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties said Tuesday it had opened an investigation.
US Airways Group Inc. said it was interviewing crew members and ground workers to find out more about what happened. "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," it said in a statement.
An airport police report said the flight's captain had already decided he wanted the men off the plane after a passenger passed a flight attendant a note pointing out "Arabic men."
Witnesses said the men prayed in the terminal and made critical comments about the Iraq war, according to the police report, and a US Airways manager said three of the men had only one-way tickets and no checked baggage.
An airport police officer and a federal air marshal agreed that the combination of circumstances was suspicious and eventually asked the men to leave the airplane, the police report said.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company