Minutes after their flight arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Tuesday afternoon, five Valley Muslim leaders announced that they had not been acting suspiciously before they were removed from a US Airways flight in Minneapolis.

“The crime we did?” said Omar Shahin, one of the five. “That we perform our prayer.”

Meanwhile, a national Islamic civil rights group asked for an investigation into the questioning of the imams in Minnesota, saying that the incident was the result of “prejudice and ignorance, not by real evidence of a threat to passenger safety.” advertisement

Shahin is the imam, or leader, of the Arizona Cultural Academy, a mosque and Islamic religious school in Phoenix.

The five men, several of whom are well-known in the Phoenix interfaith community, said that they were taken from the plane Monday because they are Muslim.

“I’m not asking the people to love my religion,” said Marwan Sadeddin, imam at the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, “I’m asking the people to respect the Constitution of the United States that says I have the freedom of religion, the freedom of belief.”

Meanwhile, US Airways says it is looking into the incident.

“At this point, we’re standing by what our employees did,” said Phil Gee, a US Airways spokesman. “We’re going to investigate to make sure what our employees did was proper. Certainly, they were removed for a reason.”

The five imams – Shahin, Sadeddin, Ahmed Shqueirat, Didwar Faja and Mahmoud Sulaiman – were in Minneapolis for a meeting of the North American Imam Federation, of which Shahin is chairman.

According to Mohammed AbuHannoud, civil rights director for the Phoenix office of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, the subject of the conference was outreach to the American community. U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to Congress, attended the conference.

The national Islamic civil rights group called for an investigation into the incident.

“CAIR is receiving more reports of ‘flying while Muslim’ and racial-profiling incidents from members of the Islamic community nationwide,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations. “We therefore call for congressional hearings to deal with the issue of racial, religious and ethnic profiling in our nation’s airports.”


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