Last night, six imams were removed from a US Airways flight at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport after passengers expressed concern to the crew. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
Six Muslim 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.
The six were among passengers who boarded Flight 300, bound for Phoenix, around 6:30 p.m., airport spokesman Pat Hogan said.
A passenger initially raised concerns about the group through a note passed to a flight attendant, according to Andrea Rader, a spokeswoman for US Airways. She said police were called after the captain and airport security workers asked the men to leave the plane and the men refused.
The imams were irate, as was CAIR, which immediately got into the act:
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, expressed anger at the detentions.
“CAIR will be filing a complaint with relevant authorities in the morning over the treatment of the imams to determine whether the incident was caused by anti-Muslim hysteria by the passengers and/or the airline crew,” Hooper said. “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.”
The imams were returning to Phoenix after attenting an imams’ convention in Minneapolis:
The six Muslim scholars were returning from a conference in Minneapolis of the North American Imams Federation, said Shahin, president of the group.
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.
Interesting. I hadn’t heard about the imams’ conference, or about Ellison’s participation. The facts are still sketchy, but it appears that this is what alarmed some of the passengers:
Three of them stood and said their normal evening prayers together on the plane, as 1.7 billion Muslims around the world [Ed.: I don’t think there are anywhere neaer 1.7 billion Muslims.] do every day, Shahin said. He attributed any concerns by passengers or crew to ignorance about Islam.
They just can’t understand why lots of Americans don’t find the sight of a group of Muslim men saying “Allahu akbar” on an airplane reassuring.
Apologies will no doubt follow in due course.
UPDATE: Reader Austin Wilson points out that Omar Shahin, spokesman for the six imams, is the same Omar Shahin who told the Arizona Republic in 2001 that he doubted that Muslims were responsible for the September 11 attacks.