In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HEARINGS ON PROFILING SOUGHT AFTER IMAMS REMOVED FROM MN FLIGHT
DHS office of civil rights opens review of ‘flying while Muslim’ incident
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/21/06) – A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today called for congressional hearings on religious and ethnic profiling at airports after six Imams, or Muslim religious leaders, were removed from a domestic flight yesterday in Minnesota.
The Imams were taken off a US Airways flight at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Monday night because of alleged “suspicious activity.” The Imams, who were handcuffed and questioned for several hours by authorities before being released, told the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) they suspect the activity cited by authorities was the performance of normal evening prayers offered by members of the group in the airport before boarding the flight.
The detained Imams also denied reports that they refused to leave the plane or that they chanted “Allah” as they were escorted from the flight. US Airways refused to allow the Imams to take another flight or to assist them in obtaining tickets on another airline. They eventually obtained tickets on Northwest Airlines and are on their way to Arizona.
SEE: U.S. Muslims Outraged After Imams Kicked Off Plane (Reuters)
SEE ALSO: CAIR Rep Discusses ”˜Flying While Muslim’ Incident on MSNBC
All of the detained Imams, several of whom are from Arizona, were in Minnesota to attend a conference of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF). A representative of the FBI was invited to attend the conference. SEE: http://imamsofamerica.com/
At a Capitol Hill news conference, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad said today that security concerns are of “paramount importance,” but that the incident in Minnesota was apparently triggered by prejudice and ignorance, not by real evidence of 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. We therefore call for congressional hearings to deal with the issue of racial, religious and ethnic profiling in our nation’s airports.
“We also call on the Department of Justice and the Transportation Security Administration to conduct thorough investigations into the incident in Minnesota and to ensure that security procedures of US Airways and other airlines conform to constitutional standards mandating the protection of religious freedom and other civil rights.”
Awad said CAIR would be seeking a meeting with US Airways officials to discuss the Minnesota incident and past complaints against the airline by members of the American Muslim community.
He added that CAIR received a letter today from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties saying it has opened a review of the case as it relates to the actions of DHS employees.
Hilary 0. Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau, said in a statement:
“The NAACP is deeply concerned with the most recent incident of Arab-Americans being removed from an airplane in Minneapolis after they prayed. As much as all Americans are concerned with the threat of terrorism and the security of our nation, for law-abiding Americans to be abused and removed from the plane is deeply disturbing.
“This matter is unfortunately consistent with the experience of African-Americans who have been detained while simply traveling on our nation’s highways, flyways and sidewalks. We encourage a thorough investigation into the matter and call for the passing of the End Racial Profiling Act, which is currently pending in Congress.”
CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 32 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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