Washington: In a case of alleged discrimination in the US, a 40-year-old Muslim man was removed from a plane after a flight attendant publicly announced his name, seat number and said she would be “watching” him.
The matter came to light on Wednesday when the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) complained to transport authorities that Mohamed Ahmed Radwan was removed from the American Airlines Flight last December because of his “identifiably Arabic and Muslim name.”
According to federal law, airlines are prohibited from discriminating against passengers based on religion, ancestry and national origin, among other criteria. CAIR sent a letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT) on Thursday urging an investigation and also called for a “thorough examination” into prevailing practices of major airlines, The Charlotte Observer reported.
In addition, CAIR said the DOT should develop policy guidelines on objective factors to be looked at while deciding to remove a passenger from a plane. Radwan, a chemical engineer, said he was flying from Charlotte to Detroit on December 6, 2015, on American Airlines Flight 1821.
As he was taking his allotted seat, Radwan said, a female flight attendant loudly announced, “Mohamed Ahmed, Seat 25-A, I will be watching you.” After a minute, she repeated, “Mohamed Ahmed, that is a very long name, Seat 25-A, I will be watching you.” Then a third time, according to Radwan, she said, “25-A: you will be watched.”
“I was in total shock. I’ve been flying for over 30 years, and I’ve never heard something like that,” he said. The flight attendant did not make such a statement about any other passenger, Radwan said. When he asked about her statements, the attendant said she was going to monitor everyone. When asked why she singled him out, the attendant accused him of being “too sensitive” and walked away, he said. After a couple of American Airlines employees talked to him, he was told the attendant felt “uncomfortable” and he was escorted off the flight.
“I felt too unsafe to fly with American again,” he said. Radwan instead booked a much later flight, which cost him about US $1,500 and interfered with his travel plans. Worse than the inconvenience was the humiliation of being treated like a terrorist, Radwan said.
“I’ve been a US citizen for 13 years, but at that moment I felt my sense of being American taken from me,” he said. In April, a Muslim woman was removed from a Southwest Airlines plane at a Chicago airport after she had asked to switch seats as she was told she had made the flight attendant “uncomfortable”. A Muslim family of five were also escorted off a United Airlines flight in March for “how they looked”.