(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/2/2009) – A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) following an incident Thursday in which nine Muslim passengers were removed from an AirTran Airways flight at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the Muslim passengers were removed from the flight and allegedly denied re-boarding and barred from other AirTran flights after another passenger overhead one of the Muslims make a comment about the safest place to sit on a plane. CAIR is working with the Muslim passengers and the airline to deal with the civil liberties issues resulting from the incident.
SEE: Muslim Family Excluded From AirTran Flight (NY Times)
Video: Muslim Passengers Removed From DC Flight
In its DOT complaint, CAIR wrote:
“It is incumbent on any airline to ensure that members of the traveling public are not singled out or mistreated based on their perceived race, religion or national origin. We believe this disturbing incident would never have occurred had the Muslim passengers removed from the plane not been perceived by other travelers and airline personnel as members of the Islamic faith.”
“There is a big difference between ‘see something, say something,’ which we all support, and reporting suspicions based solely on stereotyping and bias,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Awad said CAIR publishes a “Know Your Rights and Responsibilities” pocket guide that includes advice for airline passengers who believe they have been treated in a discriminatory manner.
The guide states: “As an airline passenger, you are entitled to courteous, respectful and non-stigmatizing treatment by airline and security personnel. You have the right to complain about treatment that you believe is discriminatory.” It also recommends that passengers ask for the names of all persons involved in an incident and to ask specifically if they have been singled out because of their “name, looks, dress, race, ethnicity, faith, or national origin.”
SEE: Know Your Legal Rights as an Airline Passenger (CAIR)
CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: email@example.com; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org