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Booted “Imam” Wants Boycott Of US Airways

From the Minneapolis Red Star-Tribune:

Omar Shahin, right, one of six imams removed from a US Airways Phoenix-bound plane at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, passes through a Northwest Airlines checkpoint, where he successfully purchased a ticket on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2006.

Muslim scholar calls for airline boycott

Six imams were removed from a US Airways flight at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Monday and questioned by police for several hours before being released, a leader of the group said.

Bob von Sternberg, Star Tribune

November 21, 2006

One of the Muslim scholars removed from a US Airways flight on Monday today called for imams around the country to boycott the airline after employees refused to sell him new tickets for his flight home.

On Monday, Omar Shahin and five other imams had gone to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to fly home to Phoenix after attending a conference in Minneapolis of the North American Imams Federation. Shahin is president of the group.

But after passengers raised concerns about the imams — three of whom said their normal evening prayers in the airport terminal before boarding the Phoenix-bound plane — the imams were removed from the flight and questioned by authorities.

This morning Shahin returned to the Twin Cities International Airport to buy six more tickets for the flight to Phoenix, but a US Airways ticket agent and supervisor refused to sell him the tickets.

In an exchange witnessed by a Star Tribune reporter, the unnamed supervisor said Shahin’s tickets had been refunded and that he needed to get tickets on another airline.

The supervisor then offered Shahin a customer service phone number.

"I want to go home. I don’t want phone numbers," Shahin said. "I want to buy six tickets."

"They have no reason to refuse service to us just because of the way we look," he said "It’s terrible. We want America to stay the way it is because we love this country."

The supervisor asked Shahin to leave the ticket counter.

"This is prejudice," he replied. "This is obvious discrimination. No one can argue with this."

"I am calling for a boycott of US Airways because I’m not going to stay silent," said Shahin, who is Jordanian. "I came to this country to enjoy justice and freedom."

US Airways said in a statement that it was aware of the situation and is conducting its own investigation. "We are always concerned when passengers are inconvenienced and especially concerned when a situation occurs that causes customers to feel their dignity was compromised," the statement said. "We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind and will continue to exhaust our internal investigation until we know the facts of this case and can provide answers for the employees and customers involved in this incident."

Later this morning the scholars were able fly standby on an 11:15 a.m. Northwest Airlines flight.

Pat Hogan, spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, said that witnesses to Monday’s events told police that before the flight that besides praying, the imams were spouting anti-American rhetoric, talking about the war in Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

One of the imams was heard saying that he would do whatever is necessary to fulfill his commitment to the Qur’an, witnesses told police, Hogan said. Other witnesses said some of the imams were repeating "Allah, Allah," he said.

And a couple of the imams asked for seat-belt extensions, even though it did not appear they needed them, Hogan said.

All of this made passengers, the attendants and the pilot uncomfortable, Hogan said. As a result, the pilot called police to have the imams escorted from plane.

Airlines have the right not to allow passengers on a plane, Hogan said.

"It’s up to the airline," he said. "From an airport standpoint we’re out of it, once it was determined no crime occurred."

The imams were questioned by U.S. Marshals, the FBI and Secret Service and they were handcuffed, which is standard procedure, Hogan said.

"There are different interpretations about what was going on," he said.

Shahin said the imams asked for two seat-belt extensions because "a couple of us have big fat bellies."

Marwan Sadeddin, another of the imams said, "What bothers me the most is these false statements and lies that we refused to leave when we were asked. That we were shouting ‘Allah, Allah.’ This never happened."

Shahin said Tuesday that three members of the group prayed in the terminal before the six boarded the plane on Monday. They entered individually, except for one member who is blind and needed to be guided, Shahin said. Once on the plane, the six did not sit together, he said.

"We did nothing" on the plane, Shahin said.

The six were among passengers who boarded Flight 300, bound for Phoenix, around 6:30 p.m. Monday, airport spokesman Pat Hogan said.

Police were called after the captain and airport security workers asked the men to leave the plane and the men refused, Rader said.

Shahin said no one asked the six to leave, but when police arrived, the group complied.

Of the six Muslim scholars, five of them were from the Phoenix-Tempe area, while one was from Bakersfield, Calif., Shahin said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations planned to file a complaint, said CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper.

"Because, unfortunately, this is a growing problem of singling out Muslims or people perceived to be Muslims at airports, and it’s one that we’ve been addressing for some time," Hooper said.

Hooper said the meeting drew about 150 imams from all over the country, and that those attending included U.S. Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, D-Minneapolis, who just became the first Muslim elected to Congress. Shahin said they went as far as notifying police and the FBI about their meeting in advance.

Shahin expressed frustration that — despite extensive efforts by him and other Muslim leaders since even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — so many Americans know so little about Islam.

"If up to now they don’t know about prayers, this is a real problem," he said.

Shahin said the group spent the night at the Minneapolis area home of a local imam and was waiting for a phone call Tuesday from US Airways. Hooper said US Airways refused to put the men on another flight.

The other passengers on the flight, which was carrying 141 passengers and five crew members, were re-screened for boarding, Rader said. The plane took off about three hours after the men were removed from the flight.

The note a passenger gave a US Airways flight attendant.

Who are we to argue with a "Muslim scholar"? I’ll go even further. All Muslims should boycott all the airlines.

It would be better for everyone concerned.

Hooper said the meeting drew about 150 imams from all over the country, and that those attending included U.S. Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, D-Minneapolis, who just became the first Muslim elected to Congress.

Yes. It was a wonderful meeting. It raised $620,000 for CAIR, which is a terrorist enabling organization if there ever was one.

We certainly need more of that.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, November 21st, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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