#1Mar 13th, 2007
Was there any doubt money would eventually be involved? The new MONEY MAKING ENTERPRISE... lawsuits by "persecuted minority groups"... If they keep this up, they ensure future laws will erase this opportunity for them - for legitimate causes of poor treatment.
http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1049823.html (external - login to view)
Imams sue over removal from plane
The six Muslims were barred from a flight after passengers became alarmed.
By Richard Meryhew (external - login to view), Star Tribune
Last update: March 12, 2007
Six Muslim imams ordered off a US Airways flight at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport last November have filed a discrimination lawsuit against the airline and the Metropolitan Airports Commission, claiming they were removed from the plane because of their race and religion.
In a 38-page document filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, the plaintiffs said they were "horrified and humiliated" after police removed them, under pilot's orders, from the plane in front of dozens of other passengers Nov. 20 "as if they were criminals."
Andrea Rader, a spokeswoman for US Airways, based in Tempe, Ariz., said Monday that the company hadn't seen the suit and couldn't comment on it. Nevertheless, she defended the actions the airline took that day after several passengers and flight attendants became alarmed by the imams' behavior.
"This was an unfortunate incident," Rader said. "But we do not discriminate against our customers or anyone else. The actions we took and the police took and the FBI took, they took based on behaviors that were observed. And they believed that was in the best interests of the safety of that flight. And we absolutely back those judgments."
Patrick Hogan, a spokesman for the Airports Commission, also hadn't seen the lawsuit, but said, "We believe airport police officers acted appropriately in responding to US Airways' call for assistance."
Airline officials have said the men were removed from the plane because of concerns about their loud praying, repeated use of the word "Allah," seat switching, and several requests for seat belt extenders.
Over the next five hours the men were detained and questioned by federal law enforcement officials. The imams denied that they did or said anything that could be considered threatening, and were later released without charges.
Within days, however, the incident set off a nationwide uproar.
Bloggers and talk-radio hosts buzzed about the need to be vigilant against potential terrorists while civil-rights advocates and Muslim leaders saw the incident as racial profiling or discrimination.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also called for a congressional hearing about ethnic and religious profiling at airports.
Omar Shahin , one of the six plaintiffs named in the suit and president of the North American Imams Federation, declined to comment Monday. Other plaintiffs identified in the suit are Ahmed Shqeirat, Mohamed Ibrahim, Didmar Faja, Mahmoud Sulaiman and Marwan Sadeddin. All but Ibrahim, who lives in California, are Arizona residents.
Omar T. Mohammedi, an attorney from New York City representing the imams, could not be reached for comment.
Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for CAIR, said CAIR will discuss the suit at a news conference today in Washington, D.C.
Removed and handcuffed
In their suit, the imams seek unspecified compensatory damages from the airline and the MAC, claiming they incurred emotional and economic distress from the incident, which occurred after they boarded the plane the afternoon of Nov. 20.
The men were returning to Phoenix following a three-day North American Imams Federation conference in Bloomington.
The imams -- prayer leaders -- contend that the airline violated their civil rights by detaining them without probable cause, placing them under false arrest, and then refusing to sell them another ticket when they returned to the airport the next day.
They also contend that the airline failed to train its employees adequately to make them aware of religious practices, and unlawfully handcuffed them when no law enforcement agency requested such action.
The suit said they were told to face a wall and put their hands up so they could be searched and handcuffed. It also said the men were not told why they were removed from the plane.
When one of the imams asked a police officer what was happening, the officer said "I do not know. This is the airline's call and not our call."
The men allege that they were humiliated when police used dogs to help sniff out and search their belongings.
The imams were later taken to the Airport Police Precinct, where they allege they were questioned by federal agents -- including members of the Secret Service -- for five hours without food or drink.
They later flew back to Arizona on another airline without incident.
Passenger accounts differ
Pauline Klemmer, a passenger on the flight that day, said Monday that the imams' account of what happened is "a total untruth."
Klemmer said she believes the men deliberately acted out as part of a "repeated attempt" to weaken security and intimidate airline employees.
"They weren't the victim," Klemmer said. "If we had been afraid of them because of their race, or them loudly praying prior to them getting on the plane, we would not have gotten on the plane, and we did. They chose to make an obvious big scene."
Rita Snelson, of Maplewood, who also was on the flight and sitting near several of the imams, agreed.
"I can't explain it, but it was like they were definitely trying to raise suspicion," she said. "The pilot did what he had to do, and we're very honored by that. I told the airline afterward, 'Thank you for watching over us.' "