Protests over Offloading of Imams

Washington, DC: America can't become a country so locked by fear that those who unfurl a prayer rug automatically become suspects, warns the Washington Post in an editorial published last Wednesday.
And the Post is not alone in rejecting what it describes as `a scary possibility’.
Jewish rabbis and Christian ministers joined Muslims in Washington last week to protest the expulsion of six imams from a US Airways flight because they prayed in public before boarding a plane.
The rabbis and ministers watched encouragingly as a group of Muslims prayed at the Reagan National Airport in Washington to reject the impression that Muslim could no longer hold group prayers at American airports. Later, Imam Omar Shahin; Ibrahim Ramey, Director of Civil and Human Rights with the Muslim American Society; Rev Walter E. Fauntroy of the National Black Leadership Roundtable; Mahdi Bray, Director of the Muslim American Society; and Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia staged a `pray-in’ demonstration at the airport and demanded an apology from US Airways.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council filed a complaint of `racial profiling’ with the US Transportation Department. The Homeland Security Department's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties said it was also investigating the incident.
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 plane, a passenger passed a note to a flight attendant, saying he thought their behavior was suspicious. The men were taken off the airplane, handcuffed and questioned. “It was the worst moment in my life,” Imam Shahin said.
US Airways Group Inc spokeswoman Andrea Rader defended the action. “We're sorry the imams had a difficult time, but we do think the crews have to make these calls and we think they made the right one,” she said.
The Washington Post, however, felt that the airline and the authorities who detained the imams had questions to answer. “Answers to these questions might help explain the airline and official actions, even if they do not end up justifying those actions. Were they switching seats suspiciously? Did the imams have round-trip or one-way tickets? Did the men ask for seat-belt extenders, and if so did they give any reason?”



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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