On December 6th, 2015 Mohammed Ahmed Radwan, a 40 year old senior manager at a manufacturing company, boarded a Detroit-bound flight at North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International airport. As he settled into his seat, he heard a flight attendant call out his name, saying, “Mohamed Ahmed, seat 25-A, I will be watching you.”
At first Radwan thought the attendant was addressing someone else, but she soon followed up her statement with, “Mohamed Ahmed, that is a very long name, Seat 25-A: I will be watching you,” and then, “25A: you will be watched.”
Radwan asked the attendant about her blunt remarks and she replied that she was watching everyone and that he was being “too sensitive.”
Then, two other American Airlines employees questioned Radwan before kicking him off the flight for making the original flight attendant “uncomfortable.”
Though he was offered another flight, Radwan “felt too unsafe to fly with American again” and booked a much later flight with another airline at the cost of $1,500.
Radwan, who became a citizen of the U.S. over 13 years ago, stated:
Following the incident Radwan posted a complaint on the airline’s Facebook page and later contacted American Airlines with the help of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). However, a spokesperson for American Airlines said in a recent statement:
Unable to reach a satisfactory resolution with the airline, Maha Sayed, a member of CAIR and Radwan’s attorney for this matter, has now asked the Department of Transportation (DOT) to investigate the case. In addition, CAIR is calling on the DOT to establish a clear set of guidelines for removing passengers from flights.
Currently, flight crews use “flight safety” and general discomfort as a blanket justifications for the discriminatory removal of passengers who have done nothing besides looking Muslim or having an Arabic name.
In her open letter to the DOT, Sayed writes:
“Given the continuing rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate crimes occurring throughout the United States, this type of reckless and harmful conduct should not be tolerated by our nation’s airlines, which are legally charged with safely carrying all individuals who are rightfully present in an equal and nondiscriminatory manner, without regard to their religious affiliation or ethnicity.”
Radwan’s case is part of a larger trend among airlines. In March, United Airlines removed a Muslim family from a flight after they asked for an extra strap for their child’s booster seat.
This April a man was kicked of a Southwest Airlines flight for saying Inshallah, the Arabic word for hopefully.
In June, a bearded man was escorted off an Alaskan Airlines flight because he looked “Arabic and scary.”
Being arbitrarily thrown off flights has become common place for Muslims, just like being randomly selected by the TSA. Without proper guidelines Muslims will continue to be treated like second class passengers. We can only hope that the DOT’s results will show that airlines clearly discriminate against Muslims, a fact that Muslims have known for years.
Contributed by Zarina Iman