Two Muslim men say they were booted off an Alaska Airlines flight in February because of text messages they sent in Arabic.
The men, identified as Abobakkr and Mohamed, were on a business trip when they boarded an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to San Francisco on Feb. 17, the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Washington state chapter said in a statement.
Abobakkr was in his first-class seat texting a friend before taking off. A passenger nearby noticed the text messages and reported them to a flight attendant despite not knowing Arabic, according to CAIR.
The flight was delayed and Abobakkr and Mohamed were being questioned. An Alaska Airlines representative translated the messages to police, which stated that the staffer saw “there was no threat of any kind.”
CAIR, which is representing the men in court, allege that after Alaska Airlines learned there was no threat, it continued to humiliate the men by disembarking all the passengers and leading them to where they were being questioned by the FBI.
The airlines also rebooked the men onto later flights so they wouldn’t have to fly together, CAIR said.
“It makes you feel little. It makes you feel embarrassed,” Abobakkr said at a press conference Tuesday. “I was so ashamed about what Alaska Airlines was doing.”
Imraan Siddiqi, executive director of CAIR-WA, vowed to get justice for the men.
“This disturbing incident is just the latest in a pattern of Muslims being unfairly singled-out by airline companies. ‘Flying while Muslim’ has now become a globally recognized phenomenon of suspicion and humiliation, and this phenomenon must come to a stop. We call on Alaska Airlines to address the mistreatment of these men once and for all,” Siddiqi said.
Alaska Airlines said it has launched an internal investigation into the matter.
“We’re sorry that two of our guests had such a distressing experience last February, when they were removed from their flight after a fellow passenger became concerned about the text messages his seatmate was sharing,” the company said in a statement to KIRO-TV. “Alaska Airlines strictly prohibits unlawful discrimination, and we take such complaints very seriously.”