DEARBORN — About 40 Muslim Metro Detroiters say they were stranded at an airport in Frankfurt, Germany, and given a series of differing explanations about why they could not board their Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

A spokesman for Northwest Airlines said this morning that the travelers, who were returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, reported to the gate about 20 minutes before their connecting flight was to take off. They were barred from making the trip by airline and international flight rules, he said.

But the Muslim travelers, including two imams, and their advocates — the Council on American Islamic Relations — adamantly rejected the airline’s statement at a press conference today, saying flight rules are at least the third reason given for why the pilgrims could not board the Jan. 7 flight. They say they believe Northwest discriminated against the Muslims and left them on their own to find accommodations while trying to book other flights.

“We arrived at the gate at least an hour and 30 minutes before the departure,” said Imam Sayed Hassan al-Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn. “Others who came after us were allowed to board the airplane.”


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