The removal of a Seattle-area Muslim imam from a Delta Air Lines partner flight has prompted public protest by the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.
Whether or not the actions of ExpressJet Airlines personnel in the March 8 incident with Syed Muhammad Abbace Ayleya in Atlanta turn out to have been justified, CAIR has been at the center of numerous cases of Muslim clergy expelled from U.S. carriers.
Far from simply being targeted for “flying while Muslim,” many of the imams and other Muslims defended by CAIR clearly have engaged in suspicious behavior that raised the alarm of passengers and airline personnel alike, including the famous “flying imams” case.
CAIR touts itself as a Muslim civil rights group, but federal prosecutors in 2007 named the Washington, D.C.-based group an unindicted co-conspirator in a plot to fund the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas, and more than a dozen CAIR leaders have been charged or convicted of terrorism-related crimes.
In the Ayleya incident last month, which CAIR called a “bias-motivated” removal, the imam was told that “the crew was doubtful about the way you were using the restroom” before the flight, according to CAIR’s complaint.
After a Delta flight from Seattle, Ayleya reportedly boarded the commuter jet in the first class section and used the restroom while waiting for the flight to depart. The jet left the gate in Atlanta on its way to Toronto, but it returned about five minutes later, according to Ayleya’s account.
Ayelya was escorted by an airline employee to the terminal, where he was met by two law enforcement officials, SeattlePI.com reported. The airline then gave him a hotel voucher and a ticket for a flight the next morning. CAIR said, however, he missed the fundraiser at which he was scheduled to speak and, consequently, the event raised no money.
CAIR wants compensation from Delta for his losses along with an investigation, an apology and discipline for the employees.
About 20 people, including representatives of CAIR’s Washington state chapter, clergy and activists from other local organizations were at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Tuesday to denounce Delta before delivering a complaint letter to the airline.
“The Department of Transportation must investigate this shocking incident to hold Delta Air Lines accountable for discriminating against a respected religious leader,” said CAIR-WA Executive Director Arsalan Bukhari in a statement. “Not all passengers who go to the bathroom get kicked off their flight, so Delta’s discriminatory act was due solely to the imam’s perceived racial, ethnic and religious affiliation.”
WND asked Delta for further information about the incident. A Delta spokeswoman replied only with a prepared statement.
“There is no place at Delta for discrimination of any kind, and we rely on the training, experience and professional judgment of our Delta Connection partners to ensure the safety and comfort of our customers and co-workers every day,” said the statement delivered to WND by Kate Modolo.
WND asked Modolo if the statement implies that Delta believes the personnel who chose to expel Ayelya from the flight made a decision that was based on a perceived threat and not due to religious or racial discrimination.
She replied that she could offer no further comment because the investigation of the incident is ongoing.
ExpressJet Airlines spokesperson Courtney Madden confirmed to WND that her airline operated Flight 5135 as a Delta Connection commuter flight March 8 but gave only a prepared statement.
“At ExpressJet we train our crews to use their experience and professional judgment to ensure the safety and comfort of all our customers, and do not condone discrimination of any kind,” the airline said.
Fight back against CAIR’s attack on First Amendment by making a contribution to WND’s “Legal Defense Fund.” Donations of $25 or more entitle you to free copy of “Muslim Mafia” – the book so devastating to CAIR the group is trying to ban it.
In 2006, CAIR represented six Muslim clerics who were kicked off a US Airways Minneapolis-to-Phoenix flight after engaging in behavior that alarmed both passengers and crew before takeoff.
Many on board feared the imams were testing security procedures in a “dry run” for a future hijacking. The men prayed loudly in Arabic; refused to sit in their assigned seats; fanned out in the cabin in pairs to occupy the front, middle and rear exit rows; ordered seat-belt extenders they didn’t need; criticized the Iraq war and President Bush; talked about al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden; and engaged in other disconcerting behaviors.
The leader of the six imams, Omar Shahin, was connected to a similar disturbance in 1999 in which two Muslim college students were removed from an America West flight to Washington from Phoenix after twice attempting to open the cockpit.
The FBI later suspected it was a dry run for the 9/11 hijackings, according the 9/11 Commission Report.
At the time, however, authorities didn’t have enough suspicion to hold the students, Hamdan al-Shalawi and Muhammed al-Qudhaieen.
When they were released, they filed racial-profiling suits against America West, now part of US Airways.”
They were represented by CAIR, which held a news conference condemning “this ugly case of racial profiling” and urging Muslims to boycott America West.
“Muhammed and Hamdan had done absolutely nothing wrong,” CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad declared. “Their crime was being Arab, speaking Arabic.”
However, similar to the “flying imams” incident, the two Muslims aboard the America West flight spoke loudly in Arabic despite being fluent in English. They also switched their seats and roamed the plane from the tail section to the cockpit, as did the six imams, all the while asking suspicious questions about the plane and its routes.
Witnesses to the “flying imams” incident said Shahin prayed loudly in Arabic before boarding his US Airways flight, which also originated from Phoenix.
Once on board, he asked for a seatbelt extender even though he didn’t need one and never used the one provided him. He and another imam left the extenders on the floor of the plane.
Shahin also roamed the cabin and tried to switch seats with another imam.
What’s more, Shahin also knew both of the students who were kicked off the America West flight, as documented in the WND Books bestseller “Muslim Mafia.”
According to the book, Shahin ministered to the students at his former mosque in Tucson, Ariz., where they had attended college on visas from Saudi Arabia. When they were arrested, Shahin rushed to their defense along with CAIR.
“Muslim Mafia” reveals Shahin had admitted to being a former supporter of Osama bin Laden while running the Saudi-backed Islamic Center of Tucson, which functioned as one of al-Qaida’s main hubs in North America.
FBI wiretap evidence from the Holy Land case showed CAIR Executive Director Awad was at an October 1993 meeting of Hamas leaders and activists in Philadelphia. CAIR, according to the evidence, was born out of a need to give a “media twinkle” to the Muslim leaders’ agenda of supporting violent jihad abroad while slowly institutionalizing Islamic law in the U.S.
As WND reported in 2010, a federal judge later determined that the Justice Department provided “ample evidence” to designate CAIR as an unindicted terrorist co-conspirator, affirming the Muslim group has been involved in “a conspiracy to support Hamas.”