Group says Muslim passenger was removed from American Airlines flight because of bias

Source: The Washington Post

The insult was so shocking that at first Mohamed Ahmed Radwan couldn’t believe his ears.

As the Florida businessman was taking his seat aboard an American Airlines flight in Charlotte last December, a flight attendant called out his name. Then she called out his seat assignment, too. Then she announced that she would be keeping an eye on him. She repeated this several times.

At first, Radwan thought the flight attendant must be talking to someone else, he said. Then he realized that he had just been singled out among other passengers, apparently because of his ethnicity. After raising the issue with the flight attendant and other airline employees, Radwan was removed from the plane at the captain’s orders.

Now a Muslim civil rights organization is calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation to investigate the incident as a possible act of bias. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the organization has written to the DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division, alleging that the flight crew ordered Radwan off  from Flight 1821 solely because he is Muslim and not because of anything he was doing.

“I think it was a shattering moment for me because I’ve lived in this country for 20 years, and I’m a proud and an honored American,” Radwan, a naturalized U.S.  citizen who emigrated from Egypt, said in an interview Thursday.  “It was a moment where I felt that a lot of the very values I came to this country for were stripped from me by not being treated equally just like everybody else on the plane.”

A call to American Airlines seeking comment late Wednesday was not immediately returned.

CAIR said Radwan’s experience fits a troubling pattern in which air travelers are singled out and sometimes removed from flights only because of their religion or ethnicity — a phenomenon known as “flying while Muslim.”

“Many of the cases we’ve seen they fail to provide an objectively reasonable cause or explanation, and they do ultimately seem that they’re ultimately based on unsubstantiated fear or speculation of some sort, ” said Maha Sayed, a CAIR attorney who is handling the case. She said the federal government needs to do more to draft specific guidelines on acceptable criteria for removing people from flights that are based on their actions and not stereotypes.

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