21 Jul, 2016
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 7/20/16) (CAIR media release) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a major Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today called on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to investigate a possible bias motive for the removal of a Muslim passenger from an American Airlines flight in December of 2015.
[NOTE: CAIR filed its DOT complaint after having previously attempted to resolve the matter directly with the airline.]
In a letter to the DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division, CAIR alleges that the Muslim passenger was singled out for monitoring and subsequent removal from an American Airlines flight in Charlotte, N.C., after a flight attendant publicly announced his name and seat number, and stated several times that she “will be watching” him during the flight.
The flight attendant reportedly said: “Mohamed Ahmed, Seat 25-A: I will be watching you.” She did not did not make a similar announcement about any other passenger. When the passenger, Mohamed Ahmed Radwan, asked the flight attendant about her statements, she allegedly accused him of being “too sensitive.” After reporting the incident to two other American Airlines employees, Radwan was informed that he must be removed from the flight because the flight attendant who made the announcement was “uncomfortable.”
In CAIR’s letter to the DOT, Staff Attorney Maha Sayed wrote:
“By making several clear announcements that Mr. Radwan would be singled out as the subject of individual monitoring and then unjustifiably removing him from his flight, American Airlines discriminated against Mr. Radwan in violation of 49 U.S.C. S. § 40127(a), which prohibits an air carrier from subjecting ‘a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex or ancestry.’ Based on the facts outlined above, it is apparent that American Airlines removed Mr. Radwan from his flight not out of a legitimate and credible safety concern or need, but because of his identifiably Arabic and Muslim name.
“Given the continuing rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate crimes occurring throughout the United States, this type of reckless and harmful conduct should not be tolerated by our nation’s airlines, which are legally charged with safely carrying all individuals who are rightfully present in an equal and nondiscriminatory manner, without regard to their religious affiliation or ethnicity.”
“This incident is particularly troubling given the recent wave of incidents in which airline personnel have arbitrarily removed passengers of Muslim and/or Middle Eastern background without an objectively reasonable cause or explanation.”
In its letter, CAIR also called on the DOT to conduct a thorough examination into the prevailing practices of major American air carriers and to develop policy guidelines on the objective factors that are to be considered when determining a passenger may legally be removed from a flight.
The Washington-based Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization publishes a “Know Your Rights and Responsibilities” pocket guide that includes a section on “Your Rights as an Airline Passenger.”