AIRLINE CHECKS CLAIM OF 'MUSLIM WHILE FLYING' DISCRIMINATION
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) -- US Airways said Tuesday it is investigating the removal of six Muslim imams who were passengers on a Monday flight heading to Phoenix, Arizona.
The clerics, who had been in Minnesota for a national imams conference, were guilty of nothing more than "flying while Muslim," according to a national Muslim advocacy group.
The alert was raised after the men performed their normal evening prayers in the airport terminal before boarding Flight 300.
A passenger who had seen them pray passed a note expressing concern to a flight attendant, US Airways spokeswoman Andrea Rader told The Associated Press.
The passenger thought the imams -- who were speaking in Arabic and English -- had made anti-U.S. statements before boarding and "made similar statements while boarding," said Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.
Once on board, Knocke said, the six split up into groups of two and did not sit in their assigned seats.
US Airways had the imams removed from the plane, and according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group, the airline denied the clerics access to another flight and did not assist them in obtaining tickets on another carrier.
"This discrimination should not stand," said Nihad Awad, the council's executive director. "We call on religious communities, civil rights movements and other people to stand up and speak up."
He said the group was getting more reports of 'flying while Muslim' and racial profiling incidents across the country.
"We are concerned that crew members, passengers and security personnel may have succumbed to fear and prejudice based on stereotyping of Muslims and Islam," Awad said in an earlier press release calling for an investigation.