Fear of Islam by at least some Americans was obvious Friday on a flight between two states in the southeastern United States.
Two Muslim clerics were pulled off a plane flying from Tennessee to North Carolina. The imams, who were on their way to a conference on Islamaphobia sponsored by the North American Imams Federation, were both wearing traditional attire.
Both are religious leaders in Memphis Muslim communities. Masudur Rahman is also a professor at the University of Memphis. He and Mohamed Zaghloul contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) after they were asked to leave by Transportation Security Authority (TSA) personnel because passengers were “uncomfortable.”
CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper told CNN, “They went through security, even went through secondary security, got on the plane and were taxiing out.” But the plane never made it into the air, he said, because the pilot said passengers didn't want to fly with the two Muslim clerics in the plane.
“TSA came on and pulled them off and said the pilot was refusing to fly with them because passengers were uncomfortable with them.” Delta, which owns Atlantic Southeast Airlines, sent officials to re-screen the two clerics, and found them to be no threat.
The Delta officials tried to return the two men to the plane and even interviewed passengers on the flight to try and see what the problem was. They even offered to place uncomfortable passengers on an alternative flight if they wished, but no one wanted to leave, Hooper said.
However, “the pilot absolutely refused, and ultimately took off,” without the two clerics, Hooper reported.
The airline refused to say why the two men were pulled off the flight, but said they were offered the opportunity to board another flight. A terse statement from the airline said, “Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight 5452 from Memphis to Charlotte returned to the gate to allow for additional screening of a passenger and the passenger's companion.
“We take security and safety very seriously. The event is currently under investigation, and we apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused.”