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More Disturbing Details About The Flying Imams

From the New York Post:

Muslims and members of Interfaith Groups gather for a congregational prayer service and rally in a park opposite US Airways headquarters in Tempe, Arizona December 1, 2006. The event was organized as a result of six Imams being removed from an US Airways flight bound for Phoenix from Minneapolis on November 20. US Airways refused to put the Imams on another flight to Phoenix once they were cleared of any security risk.

ABOUT THOSE IMAMS

WHY U.S. AIRWAYS KICKED ‘EM OFF FLIGHT

By RICHARD MINITER

December 2, 2006 — THE notorious case of U.S. Airways Flight 300 gets stranger by the minute, as more facts emerge about why six traveling Muslim clerics were asked to deplane.

A passenger on that flight – I’ll call her "Pauline" – has inadvertently publicized some facts via a much-forwarded e-mail; she gave me more details in an interview this week. The airport police report confirms some of her claims and holds more revelations of its own. And U.S. Airways spokeswoman Andrea Rader also confirmed much of Pauline’s account.

One detail that’s escaped most reports is that other Muslim passengers were left undisturbed and later joined in a round of applause for the U.S. Airways crew.

"It wasn’t that they were Muslim," says Pauline. "It was all of the suspicious things they did." Sitting by Minneapolis-St. Paul’s Airport Gate C9, she noticed one imam immediately. "He was pacing nervously, talking in Arabic," she said.

As the plane boarded, she said, no one refused to fly. The public prayers and an Arabic phone call triggered no alarms.

But then a note from a passenger about suspicious movements of the imams got the crew’s attention.

To Pauline, everything seemed normal. Then the captain – in classic laconic pilot-style – announced there had been a "mix-up in our paperwork" and that the flight would be delayed.

In reality, the crew was waiting for the FBI and local police to arrive.

Contrary to press accounts that a single note from a passenger triggered the imams’ removal, Captain John Howard Wood was weighing multiple factors.

* An Arabic speaker was seated near two of the imams in the plane’s tail. That passenger pulled a flight attendant aside and, in a whisper, translated what the men were saying: invoking "bin Laden" and condemning America for "killing Saddam," according to police reports.

* An imam seated in first class asked for a seat-belt extender – the extra strap that obese people use because the standard belt is too short. According to both an on-duty and a deadheading flight attendant, he looked too thin to need one.

A seat-belt extender can easily be used as a weapon – just wrap one end around your fist, and swing the heavy metal buckle.

* All six imams had boarded together, with the first-class passengers – even though only one of them had a first-class ticket. Three had one-way tickets. Between the six men, only one had checked a bag.

And, Pauline said, they spread out – just like the 9/11 hijackers. Two sat in first class, two in the middle and two back in the economy section, police reports show. Some, according to Rader, took seats not assigned to them.

* Finally, a gate attendant told the captain she was suspicious of the imams, according to police reports.

So the captain made his decision to delay the flight based on many complaints, not one. He also consulted a federal air marshal, a U.S. Airways ground-security coordinator and the airline’s security office in Phoenix. All thought the imams were acting suspiciously, Rader told me.

One more odd thing went unnoticed at the time: The men prayed both at the gate and on the plane. Yet observant Muslims pray only once at sundown, not twice.

"It was almost as if they were intentionally trying to get kicked off the flight," Pauline said.

While the imams were soon released, Pauline is fuming: "We are the victims of these people. They need to be more sensitive to us. They were totally insensitive to us and then accused us of being insensitive to them."

The flight was delayed for some 31/2 hours. Bomb-sniffing dogs swept the plane, and every passenger got re-screened.

"I think it was either a foiled attempt to take over the plane or it was a publicity stunt to accuse us of being insensitive," Pauline told me. "It had to be to intimidate U.S. Airways to ease up on security."

So far, U.S. Airways refuses to be intimidated, even though the feds have launched an investigation. "We are absolutely backing this crew," Rader said.

Tucked away in the police report is this little gem: One imam had complained to a passenger that some nations don’t follow sharia law and had said his job in Bakersfield, Calif., was a cover for "representing Muslims here in the U.S."

What are the imams really up to? Something more than praying, it seems.

We have already posted much of this before. But it’s good to see it compiled — and coming from an eye-witness.

And, lest we forget, at least one of the six does seem to have some connection to terrorist enabling groups. (Probably all of them do.)

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, December 2nd, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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