Washington imam claims discriminatory treatment by Delta Air Lines

By Lynsi Burton, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Activists are decrying the reported actions of Delta Air Lines employees after a Lynnwood-based imam claimed he was escorted off an airplane last month on the basis of his religious affiliation.

Representatives of the Washington chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, as well as clergy and activists from other local organizations, denounced Delta on Tuesday at the Sea-Tac Airport before delivering a complaint letter intended for Delta.

Complainants suspect a "possible pattern and practice" of discrimination against Muslims on airplanes, though Delta denies that's the case.

A U.S. Department of Transportation spokesman said the agency is investigating the incident.

This most recent complaint -- CAIR says there have been at least 15 referred to their organization in the past two-and-a-half years -- stems from a March 8 incident in which Syed Muhammad Abbace Ayleya was escorted off a connecting Delta flight in Atlanta, bound for Toronto, and told little other than that his use of the airplane bathroom was "doubtful," according to CAIR.

The ordeal caused him to miss a fundraiser for a Toronto elementary school at which he was scheduled to speak. The fundraiser ultimately did not happen after the organizers learned Ayleya would not be able to make it.

"I went through a great deal of loss and suffering," Ayleya wrote to Delta in a March 11 complaint. "I personally feel it's very offensive and discriminatory."

Ayleya, the resident imam at Zainab Center in Lynnwood, frequently travels by air and reportedly has never before had a problem with airline employees. He is a Delta Platinum Elite member and is approved by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Global Entry program, which expedites low-risk air passengers through security procedures. (Read more)