When six imams were kicked off a Twin Cities flight and barred from another, a wave of outrage and cries of religious discrimination followed.

Taken individually, the things the six men did – praying, talking about Iraq, asking for seat-belt extensions – may have passed without notice.

But their behavior Monday night at Gate C9 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport was enough to trigger one airline passenger to jot a two-sentence note that would get the men kicked off one flight and eventually barred from another.

It also brought in the FBI and U.S. Secret Service, launched a federal investigation, prompted cries of religious discrimination, forced an airline to review its policies and spurred a call for a boycott of the nation’s sixth-largest air carrier.

“The police came and took us off the plane in front of all the passengers in a very humiliating way,” said one of the men, Omar Shahin, president of the North American Imams Federation.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, said the detention of the imams was the result of prejudice and there was never a threat to passenger safety.

“CAIR is receiving more reports of ‘flying while Muslim’ and racial profiling incidents from members of the Islamic community nationwide,” he said.

Awad called for congressional hearings into the issue.


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