Security or Anti-Muslim Hysteria? Imams Removed From Plane

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

(Clarification: The imams prayed in the airport terminal, before boarding the plane)

( - An Islamic advocacy group is calling for an investigation into an incident in Minnesota, where six imams (Islamic religious leaders) were removed from a US Airways flight after a passenger complained that they were acting in a suspicious manner.

The imams told the Council on American-Islamic Relations that they were simply conducting their evening prayers. The Associated Press reported that three of the six stood up to recite their prayers -- inside the airport terminal, before boarding the plane.

The imams also told CAIR they were humiliated when they were handcuffed and escorted off the plane. They denied the airline's claim that they refused a request to leave the flight voluntarily.

"We are concerned that crew members, passengers and security personnel may have succumbed to fear and prejudice based on stereotyping of Muslims and Islam," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. "We call on relevant authorities to investigate whether proper procedures were followed by security personnel and members of the US Airways flight crew."

Awad said that public prayer is not a threat to safety or security and should not be viewed as suspicious or criminal activity.

The imams were questioned for several hours and released, but press reports say US Airways is refusing to let the imams board another flight - and has placed them on the "no-fly" list.

The men were in Minnesota to attend a conference of the North American Imams Federation, and they were trying to return to Arizona when their travel plans were interrupted.

One of the imams removed from the plane told the Associated Press that ignorance about Islam is at the root of the problem.

CAIR's Arizona office said it would hold a news conference Tuesday morning in Phoenix to discuss the incident.

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