Was it ignorance of Muslim tradition or legitimate concern that resulted in the delay of a U.S. passenger plane last night? Federal officials are trying to answer that question today, and an Islamic group is calling for an investigation into why the actions of six Muslim clerics resulted in the delay of a US Airways flight yesterday.
Flight 300 from Minneapolis to Phoenix was held on the ground more than three hours last night, after a passenger expressed concerns about the actions of the men to a flight attendant who, in turn, notified the pilot. In the end, passengers were removed from the flight, re-screened, and allowed to board again. Scheduled to leave at 5:15 p.m., the plane instead took off at 8:29 p.m. -- without the Muslims on board.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today says the nervous passenger was apparently alarmed by the decision of three of the imams to say their regular evening prayers in the airport before boarding the plane. "This is a growing problem of singling out Muslims or people perceived to be Muslims at airports," says CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper. The group says the incident resulted from "fear and prejudice."
A federal security official says a passenger did, indeed, express concern by passing a note to a flight attendant. But the official says the passenger reported hearing the men not only make references to "Allah" but also express pro-Saddam and anti-U.S. sentiments. The official says some of the imams did not sit in their assigned seats and moved to empty seats. US Airways also says the men refused to budge when asked to leave the plane by the pilot and airport security officers.