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Muslims sue AirTran for discrimination

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Editors

Nine Muslim American passengers from the Washington area sued AirTran Airways in federal court Wednesday, alleging that the airline discriminated against them by removing them from a Jan. 1, 2009, flight out of Reagan National Airport and refusing to rebook them.

"We want to send a clear message that discrimination will not be tolerated and ensure that others will not have to endure this unfair and embarrassing treatment," said Michael Kirkpatrick, a lawyer with Public Citizen and co-counsel for the plaintiffs, brothers Kashif Irfan of Alexandria and Atif Irfan of Rockville; their families; and a friend, Abdul Razak Aziz of the District.

"As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we hope that airlines will be more sensitive when Muslim Americans travel to spend time with family and friends," said Kashif Irfan.<

The lawsuit alleges that two teenaged girls seated nearby mistook an innocuous comment by the group about safety at the rear of the airplane as a threat. The suit claims that AirTran refused to rebook the group even after FBI investigators cleared them to travel.

In a statement, AirTran said that safety is its primary mission and that it "denies liability and looks forward to vigorously defending ourselves in court."

The airline added that it was a member of the public that triggered the incident, and that the Transportation Security Administration and Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police also were involved.

AirTran apologized at the time and offered the group a refund for their replacement tickets and return airfare.

By Spencer S. Hsu  | November 17, 2010; 4:57 PM ET
Categories:  Spencer S. Hsu, The Region  
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Let the bows and arrows commence. LOL

Posted by: msdooby1 | November 17, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

So what was the "innocous" comment that triggered their removal, I wonder?

Posted by: luca_20009 | November 17, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Was Juan Williams on that plane?

Posted by: ged0386 | November 17, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Yeah - I smell bows and arrows coming too. I read the lawsuit. Apparently, they realized that their seats were in the back of the plane, and someone in the group said he hated sitting near the restroom because of the smell (me too). Then someone in the group said, well, at least we're in the safest seats if something happens.

How many times have people said the rear is the safest part of the plane? Quite oftens. Back when people could smoke on planes, people would often request seats in the "smoking area" because anecdotal evidence suggest the rear was safest.

Two young white girls ran and told the airline, and the Muslims were kicked off. Even though the FBI cleared them to fly, AirTran refused to let them back on the plane. Gee - I wonder why....Of course, if they were white and said that they are in the safest seats, they would not have been thrown off the plane. Now let the bows and arrows fly.

Query: If they were trying to down the plane on a suicide mission, why on Earth would they care about having safe seats? Duh....Racism is so ignorant.

Here's the complaint:

Posted by: darrren12000 | November 17, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

No, Jaymand. It was not a threatening comment. It was only perceived as a threat because they were Muslim. Duh.

Posted by: darrren12000 | November 18, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

The TSA denies flight privileges over far more innocuous statements every single day.

Posted by: pswift00 | November 18, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

From "freedom" fries to internment camps, we sure know how to treat people who don't — what, look like whoever "us" is at the time?

At least we're not alone: The Royal Family in Great Britain changed their family name to Windsor in 1917 because of anti-German sentiment.

Posted by: cfow1 | November 18, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Did this group of people ever question why the security checks on planes are now so endemic? Could it be the Lockerbie bombing, the Achilles-Lauro ship, the Muslim Somali pirates, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the 1972 Olympics, Beirut 1983, the fact that our kids are dying fighting the Taliban, the death to the US chants and celebrations in the streets after 9/11? I didn't say 911 because that will be re-written in the PC history books as that funny day when the twin towers were mistakenly excavated to make room for an interfaith Disney park. They missed and hit the pentagon as well. That fool American on the plane over Pennsylvania messed everything up for the poor muslim hijackers. Puh-leeze.

Posted by: stopthemadness | November 18, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

We can thank muslims for the overbearing security we now find at airports.

We should sue muslims, not the other way around.

Posted by: kenk33 | November 18, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Reading the deposition (and without a rebuttal from AirTran) I'm curious what AirTran's answer will be. If the FBI did clear them for travel, and advocated for the passenger's rebook/reboard, AirTran could be in a tough spot. But I'm sure there's information missing here.

Posted by: mwcob | November 18, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Not only do we get to spend billions of dollars a year in security lines, getting strip searched and irradiated, so that we can maintain the pretense that little old white Christian ladies are as likely as young African Muslim men to try blow up airplanes, we now have to pay them through higher ticket prices when their feelings are hurt. Oh well, at least American Muslims are out in front condemning extremist Islam--oh yeah, they aren't.

Posted by: HT12 | November 18, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Hey kenk33, yea go ahead and sue me. I'm a Muslim who was born and raised in Chicago. I love the Chicago Bears and Bulls, watch the Simpsons and Family Guy and fly almost every week for work. As a Muslim American, I'm totally responsible for some nut job trying to kill Americans (all kinds) on a plane. Sue me right after I sue you for Timothy McVeigh causing security to be tightened at Federal Buildings. I'm a proud American and a Proud Muslim, I don't have to put up with your racist BS.

Posted by: RealityTwisted | November 18, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

HT12, don't speak w/out doing your research first. Muslims all around the world have been condemning extremists Loudly and Consistently, just google "muslims condemn terrorism". I'm sure the reality is too much to handle for you though; folks like you would hate to let something as ridiculous as facts and truth get in the way of your racist hate filled arguments. Here, let me make things even easier for you, I'm and American Muslim and I condemn extremist Muslims. I'm not responsible for them, but sure do hate them. Happy? Now move on to another myth-based argument so I can debunk that too.

Posted by: RealityTwisted | November 18, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

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