US Airways, the most recent airline to face scrutiny for stricter policies to combat terrorism, is pushing the message that its employees do not use racial profiling when determining the threat of passengers.

The airline came under fire from Muslim groups last week when six Muslim clerics were handcuffed and escorted off a flight going from Minneapolis to Phoenix on their return trip from the North American Imams Federation conference. Islamic advocacy groups immediately called for an investigation and a boycott of the airline.

The November 20 incident prompted US Airways to defend its policies to the passengers and media. ‘Our immediate focus is talking with the customers and establishing that dialogue,’ said Andrea Radar, corporate communications director for US Airways.

‘We must make sure we do (all) we can to ensure the safety of the airplane,’ she added. ‘We have an experienced crew. We do not profile (or) discriminate, but we have certain procedures (for removing a passenger from a plane.)’

Despite US Airways’ assertions, the incident has generated cries from Muslim groups. The Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is considering legal action on behalf of the Imams and is still mulling its PR response, but is leaning towards launching an extensive campaign to educate Americans about the difference between terrorists and the Muslim religion.

‘When these kinds of incidents have occurred in the past, we tried to make lemons into lemonade,’ said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for CAIR. ‘We gave away free Korans when there were allegations that the Koran was desecrated at Guantanamo. We gave away free books and DVDs about the Prophet Mohammed when the Danish cartoon incident occurred. When these kind of negative events happen, you have to try to turn them into positive teaching opportunities.’


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