Imams: Airport ‘Pray-in’ Protest

November 30, 2006 by  


By LESLIE MILLER, Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Imams, ministers and a rabbi staged a “pray-in” demonstration Monday at Reagan Washington National Airport and demanded an apology from US Airways for barring six Muslims from a Minneapolis to Phoenix flight last week.

Imam Omar Shahin, one of the six imams detained last Monday at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, said they hadn’t done anything suspicious.

The imams, who were returning from a religious conference, had prayed on their prayer rugs in the airport before the flight. After they boarded the flight, a passenger, who was alarmed by their activity, passed a note to a flight attendant. The men were taken off the airplane, handcuffed and questioned.

“It was the worst moment in my life,” Shahin said.

US Airways Group Inc. spokeswoman Andrea Rader alleged several disputed facts about the men as justification for US Airways treatment of them.

On Monday, Shahin and a handful of other Muslims bowed down on rugs and prayed in Terminal A near the US Airways ticket counter. Jewish and Christian clergy also said prayers.

After the prayer session, Shahin and other religious leaders boarded a US Airways flight to demonstrate their determination to continue praying and flying.

Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP national office, called on Congress to pass legislation that would end racial profiling. The bill is necessary because airlines are unclear how to deal with racial and ethnic profiling, he said.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, four airlines accused of breaking federal anti-discrimination laws settled with the government. Transportation Department investigations found the airlines had unlawfully removed passengers because of their perceived ethnic or religious backgrounds. Though the air carriers–American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines–admitted no wrongdoing, they agreed to carry out civil rights training for their employees. The Homeland Security Department’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties said last week that it was investigating the US Airways incident.

Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR Michigan, explained to TMO that he had traveled via American Airlines the same night that the imams had been refused permission to fly, and had in fact prayed in congregation before the flight, without incident.

He explained facts that show US Airways, in particular, has been particularly noticeable on this issue;

US Airways recently refused to allow a Muslim woman, Rima Qayyum, to fly, even after repeated searches of her person found nothing suspicious.

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