The police report listed the incident as “Security-Other,” but some saw the detention of six imams at the airport here as a case of “Flying while Muslim” – the idea that Muslims come in for extra scrutiny when they fly.

The imams were removed from the flight to Phoenix on Monday night after three of them said their normal evening prayers in the terminal in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport before boarding, said Omar Shahin, president of the North American Imams Federation, who was one of the passengers removed. The passengers were among 150 imams who attended a federation meeting in Minneapolis.

“It’s discrimination,” Shahin said, calling for a boycott of US Airways.

It was just the latest incident in which passengers who were Muslim or, in some cases, just not Caucasian were removed from a flight for questioning. In August, a flight from Amsterdam to Mumbai was escorted back to the airport by F-16 fighters because a group of Indians on the plane had a large number of cell phones, notebook computers and hard drives, and refused to follow the crew’s instructions.

“In this country, there was a time that Catholics were profiled, and they were stereotyped and discriminated (against), and Jewish people,” said Dr. Shahid Athar, a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, who also writes and lectures on Muslim interaction in the West. “It looks like it is our turn now.”

In the incident Monday, a passenger reported overhearing the imams criticize the U.S. in Iraq and speaking angrily near the gate. The men were interrogated by the FBI and the Secret Service. They had to fly a different airline out of town on Tuesday after US Airways refused to let them on any of its flights.

“Unfortunately, this is a growing problem of singling out Muslims or people perceived to be Muslims at airport, and it’s one that we’ve been addressing for some time,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The group planned to file a complaint over the incident, Hooper said.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the group has been receiving more reports of profiling.


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