Whether or not YouTube star Adam Saleh’s story about being kicked off a Delta flight yesterday morning after speaking Arabic on a phone call to his mother turns out to be true, flying while even looking Muslim is no joke. Here are 16 other times Muslims and those mistaken as Muslims were stopped by other airlines in just the past few months.
1. November 15, 2015 – Two Middle-Eastern passengers were removed from an American Airlines flight from Washington, D.C., to Boston, MA, after the flight crew worried that they were behaving suspiciously. They were cleared of all suspicion before being accommodated by another flight.
2. November 17, 2015 – Four passengers of Middle Eastern descent were asked to get off a Spirit Airlines flight from Baltimore, MD, to Chicago, IL, moments before take-off. A fellow passenger had alerted a flight attendant of “suspicious activity,” including having carry-on luggage and watching the news on a mobile phone.
3. November 18, 2015 – Two Palestinian Americans, Maher Khalil and Anas Ayyad, were waiting for a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago Midway to Philadelphia when they were told they could not board after another passenger reported feeling uncomfortable hearing them speak Arabic. They were forced to call 911 to make sure they could make their flight.
4. November 24, 2015 – Stanford graduate, Fulbright scholar and contributing editor at The New Inquiry, Kameelah Rasheed was detained by customs agents on her way to Istanbul at Newark Liberty International Airport. Her cellphone and passport were confiscated before she was allowed to board, before eventually being removed from the plane and interrogated by the FBI for two and a half hours.
5. December 2, 2015 – Sikh activist, attorney and frequent MSNBC guest Valarie Kaur was asked by her fellow Delta Airlines passengers on a flight from Minneapolis, MN, to Los Angeles, CA, to show them her breast pump to “prove” she wasn’t a terrorist.
6. December 15, 2015 – A family of 11 British Muslims is stopped for no apparent reason from boarding their flight from Gatwick Airport in London to Los Angeles, CA, where they were headed for a trip to Disneyland.
7. January 18, 2016 – Four men – two Bangladeshi Muslims, one Arab Muslim and one Indian Sikh – filed a lawsuit against American Airlines after they were kicked off a flight from Toronto, Canada, to New York City, NY, earlier in December for “looking too Muslim.” Two more members of their group of old friends, a Hispanic man and a Pakistani man, were sitting separately and were not kicked off.
8. January 18, 2016 – A man was removed from a flight from Orlando, FL, to New York City, NY, after Delta Airlines said he refused to stop using his phone. However, a fellow passenger live-tweeting the entire episode said that another woman on the flight alerted the flight attendant after becoming anxious while watching the ejected passenger eat hummus. Two other passengers were also removed; nothing was known about them except that one was able to board a later flight.
9. February 8, 2016 – Sikh American actor Waris Ahluwalia is stopped on his way to New York City, NY, when gate agents for his Aero Mexico flight from Mexico City stopped him for refusing to remove his turban. After social media reacts to the incident, he was offered another flight, but he refused to board until the airline publicly apologized and mandated an informational course on religious headgear for its staff, which it finally agreed to after two days of public pressure.
10. March 9, 2016 – Two Muslim women were removed from a JetBlue flight after a crew member reported being uncomfortable with how they “were staring back at her.” A fellow passenger caught the incident on film. The airline refused to apologize, saying that the flight attendant assured them that she had seen one of the women filming the journey.
11. March 20, 2016 – The crew on a United Airlines flight from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Washington, D.C. kicked Eaman-Amy Saad Shebley and her family of five off the plane, allegedly for being Muslim. United Airlines responded that the removal was over a disagreement about child-seat safety. The family’s legal representation countered that the family had been asked to disembark after simply asking for an extra strap on the child-seat as he had seen an advertisement for it on United’s website.
12. April 6, 2016 – UC Berkeley senior Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was sitting on a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles, CA, to Oakland, when he finished a phone call with his uncle with “inshallah,” and was instantly reported to the flight attendants, who alerted security to have him taken off the flight. A female passenger had heard him and thought he had said “shaheed,” the Arabic word for “martyr.” Southwest Airlines refused to apologize. The 26-year-old is an Iraqi refugee who attended a dinner with Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon the day before.
13. April 13, 2016 – Somali-American Hakima Abdulle was escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago Midway Airport to Seattle, WA, with seemingly no basis, after mutually agreeing to switch seats with another passenger.
14. June 15, 2016 – Mark French was flying on a Seattle-bound Alaska Airlines flight from the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas when he was pulled off the flight “because someone complained that he looks ‘Arabic and scary,’” according to a statement from his sister. Alaska Airlines denies that ethnicity played a role and insists “there is more to the story.”
15. July 26, 2016 – Nazia and Faisal Ali were preparing to fly home to Cincinnati, OH, from Paris when they were kicked off their Delta Airlines flight after a crew member complains that she feels unsafe because Faisal was “sweating,” and Nazia, a hijabi, was “on the phone,” talking about Allah.
16. August 3, 2016 – Voice of America journalist Niala Mohammad was traveling with a female Muslim friend when they were both removed from an American Airlines flight from Miami, FL, to Washington, D.C. after making a flight attendant feel “unsafe” by asking for water and clarification as to why the flight had been idling. The airline made no apologies for its employees’ discriminatory behavior.