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Muslim group calls for probe of passenger pulled from Charlotte flight

A prominent Muslim organization has called for an investigation of a Muslim man’s removal from a Charlotte American Airlines flight last year after he was allegedly singled out by a flight attendant for monitoring.
A prominent Muslim organization has called for an investigation of a Muslim man’s removal from a Charlotte American Airlines flight last year after he was allegedly singled out by a flight attendant for monitoring. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

A prominent Muslim organization has called for an investigation of a Muslim man’s removal from a Charlotte flight last year after he was allegedly singled out by a flight attendant for monitoring.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said Mohamed Ahmed Radwan was removed from the flight because of his “identifiably Arabic and Muslim name.”

According to federal law, airlines are prohibited from discriminating against passengers based on religion, ancestry and national origin, among other criteria.

CAIR sent a letter to the Department of Transportation on Wednesday urging an investigation and also called for a “thorough examination” into prevailing practices of major airlines. In addition, CAIR said the DOT should develop policy guidelines on objective factors to be looked at while deciding to remove a passenger from a plane.

In an interview, Radwan, a 40-year-old chemical engineer, said he was flying from Charlotte to Detroit on Dec. 6, 2015, on American Airlines Flight 1821.

As he was taking his allotted seat, Radwan said, a female flight attendant loudly announced: “Mohamed Ahmed, Seat 25-A, I will be watching you.” After a minute, she repeated “Mohamed Ahmed, that is a very long name, Seat 25-A, I will be watching you.” Then a third time, according to Radwan, she said: “25-A: you will be watched.”

“I was in total shock,” Radwan said. “I’ve been flying for over 30 years, and I’ve never heard something like that.”

The flight attendant did not make such a statement about any other passenger, Radwan said. When he asked about her statements, the attendant said she was going to monitor everyone, according to Radwan. When asked why she singled him out, the attendant accused him of being “too sensitive,” and walked away, he said.

After a couple of American Airlines employees talked to him, he was told the attendant felt “uncomfortable” and he was escorted off the flight.

“I felt too unsafe to fly with American again,” he said. He instead booked a much later flight, which cost him about $1,500 and interfered with his travel plans.

Worse than the inconvenience was the humiliation of being treated like a terrorist, Radwan said. “I’ve been a U.S. citizen for 13 years,” he said, “but at that moment I felt my sense of being American taken from me.”

The DOT’s Enforcement Office has received CAIR’s letter and will investigate the complaint, a spokesperson said.

CAIR had previously reached out to American Airlines with the complaint but the airlines did not acknowledge any wrongdoing, said CAIR attorney Maha Sayed. American Airlines did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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