Muslim Americans Kicked Off Airplane for “Safety”seat remarks…

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A Muslim family removed from an airliner Thursday after passengers became concerned about their conversation say AirTran officials refused to rebook them, even after FBI investigators cleared them of wrongdoing.

A Muslim family was removed from an AirTran flight after a conversation about the safest place to sit.

A Muslim family was removed from an AirTran flight after a conversation about the safest place to sit.

Atif Irfan said federal authorities removed eight members of his extended family and a friend after passengers heard them discussing the safest place to sit and misconstrued the nature of the conversation.

Irfan, a U.S. citizen and tax attorney, said he was “impressed with the professionalism” of the FBI agents who questioned him, but said he felt mistreated when the airline refused to book the family for a later flight.

AirTran Airways late Thursday said they acted properly and that the family was offered full refunds and can fly with AirTran again.

AirTran Airways complied with all TSA, law enforcement and Homeland Security directives and had no discretion in the matter,” the company said in a prepared statement. Video Watch how Muslims find climate of fear at airport »

Family members said FBI agents tried to work it out with the airline, but to no avail. Share your story

“The FBI agents actually cleared our names,” said Inayet Sahin, Irfan’s sister-in-law. “They went on our behalf and spoke to the airlines and said, ‘There is no suspicious activity here. They are clear. Please let them get on a flight so they can go on their vacation,’ and they still refused.”

“The airline told us that we can’t fly their airline,” Irfan said.

The dispute occurred about 1 p.m. Thursday as AirTran flight 175 was preparing for takeoff from Reagan National Airport outside of Washington, D.C., on a flight destined for Orlando, Florida.

Atif Irfan, his brother, their wives, a sister and three children were headed to Orlando to meet with family and attend a religious conference.

“The conversation, as we were walking through the plane trying to find our seats, was just about where the safest place in an airplane is,” Sahin said. “We were (discussing whether it was safest to sit near) the wing, or the engine or the back or the front, but that’s it. We didn’t say anything else that would raise any suspicion.” Video Watch Muslims recount how they were kicked off plane »

The conversation did not contain the words “bomb,” “explosion,” “terror” or other words that might have aroused suspicion, Irfan said.

“When we were talking, when we turned around, I noticed a couple of girls kind of snapped their heads,” said Sobia Ijaz, Irfan’s wife. “I kind of thought to myself, ‘Oh, you know, maybe they’re going to say something.’ It didn’t occur to me that they were going to make it such a big issue.”

Some time later, while the plane was still at the gate, an FBI agent boarded the plane and asked Irfan and his wife to leave the plane. The rest of the family was removed 15 or 20 minutes later, along with a family friend, Abdul Aziz, a Library of Congress attorney and family friend who was coincidentally taking the same flight and had been seen talking to the family.

After the FBI interviewed family members, it released them, Irfan said.

AirTran spokesman Tad Hutcheson said the incident began when some passengers reported hearing suspicious remarks by a woman and alerted flight attendants. Two federal air marshals, who were on board the flight, notified law enforcement about the security-related issue, AirTran said.

After the family and Aziz were taken for questioning, the remaining 95 passengers were taken off of the plane and rescreened, along with the crew and the baggage, AirTran said.

Irfan said he believes his family is owed an apology.

“Really, at the end of the day, we’re not out here looking for money. I’m an attorney. I know how the court system works. We’re basically looking for someone to say… ‘We’re apologizing for treating you as second-class citizens.'”

“We are proud Americans,” Sahin said. “You know we decided to have our children and raise them here. We can very easily go anywhere we want in the world, but you know we love it here and we’re not going to go away, no matter what.”

Aziz said there is a “very strong possibility” he will pursue a civil rights lawsuit.

“I guess it’s just a situation of guilt by association,” Aziz said. “They see one Muslim talking to another Muslim and they automatically assume something wrong is going on


30 thoughts on “Muslim Americans Kicked Off Airplane for “Safety”seat remarks…

  1. I agree with the FBI and the airline that ANY concern raised by the passengers-at-large is wise to investigate. Consider the worst-case-scenario prospects of a situation where a dangerous passenger was observed, concerns were raised, but not investigated because they DID match a suspicious profile? The irony would be [rightly] outrageous, and policies set around this would render airline security ineffective- “just dress like this, and they aren’t allowed to investigate you! Muahahaha….” Oh sure, great idea.

    I agree that there are elements of this that seem prejudiced. I can see and sympathise with how terribly inconvenienced this family was, and agree that a simple refund is no compromise for the hours of planning, other reservations and deposits lost, lost opportunity, work scheduling time off, coordinated family planning, and of course – the actual loss of perhaps badly needed vacation time. The family should be compensated for all that, if indeed the investigation was fruitless, if the FBI cleared them, and the airline therefore had no reason to hold them!

    Yes, the public-at-large (and therefore passengers-at-large) are likely to be prejudiced. Yes, Arab families might need to mind their P’s and Q’s a bit more than some other racial groups. But the Arab family themselves even misconstrues the nature of the racism, saying:
    “They see one Muslim talking to another Muslim and they automatically assume something wrong is going on.”
    I don’t believe anyone “sees” religion. What does religion look like? But this is the crux of what the middle east (and obviously Arab-Americans also) believe the prejudice to be. There’s some ignorance in believing that Americans see “Muslims” rather than “Arabs”. It’s the fuel behind the anti-American sentiment in the middle east, and that’s dangerous. The perception of Americans being Anti-Muslim is unique to Muslims.

    Americans are [understandably] frightened of terrorists and terrorism, and [understandably] tune in and maybe develop a little paranoia when they see someone who they believe might fit the visual profile of one…
    But that’s not religion, or religious-based on what they see with their eyes, and how they react to their inner fear. An Arab-American might be a Buddhist or a Christian, and I don’t think anyone would treat him differently. It’s the terrorism that breeds fear.

    The comfort (and calmness) of the passengers is rightfully a concern of the airline, but the airline needs to manage the expense involved in maintaining that, just as they invest in comfortable seats. The wrongdoing was toppling this family’s domino and not taking responsibility for the domino effect.



  3. It was a good move by AirTran, considering the nature of events around the world and how Muslims as a whole feel about the west, AirTran did the right thing. I don’t understand why these Muslims are in the western world anyway, they hate the West, especially the USA…Sorry but I am calling it as I see it….

  4. I can sympathize with the family being upset but I think the airline did the right thing. They also screened the entire crew and passengers, so the family wasn’t the only ones put through interrogation. It is sad that Muslim extremists have put regular Muslims in this situation. What I say Muslims need to do rather than sue American companies or individuals, they need to verbally lash out at Muslim extremists and try to stop terrorism and show Americans that they do not agree with extremist attitudes. We see their disagreement only when these mistakes occur but there is not enough public witness from Muslims against the extremists. That is what needs to be done. Then perhaps more trust would be gained.

  5. It is not the religion that scared these folks on the plane, it is the radical actions of some folks within that religion that did. How do you tell one from the other? The radicals blend in with our society. They have no concern for their own family, friends, or neighbors. Very few from the same faith stand up against the radicals out of fear. I do not wish to see anyone treated unfairly or poorly, but surely this family must understand why others may react the way that they do. Perhaps if they stood up for against the radicals, we would stand up for them.

  6. This people should not blame neither the concerned passengers that tipped the airline, nor the airline itself. They should blame the hundreds of thousands of their fellow Muslims that have hijacked the world’s hope for a peaceful future by either embracing or condoning (by failing to protest and disassociate themselves therefrom) radical and way too often extremely violent actions in the name of a religion that, though failed as any other religion, hasn’t evolved much since the dark middle ages during which it was grounded and hasn’t benefited from three centuries of European-born “Enlightenment”.

  7. I can see where some racist person overhears a Muslim family members conversation about where to sit on the plane can get you grounded by federal air marshals. I see we live in a world of snoops and tattlers. Your civil rights can be violated by one racist eavesdropper. This is absurd.

  8. Rob, i think you are not a racist at all just misinformed. Mulims or Arabs at large dont hate USA. Infact go to Middleast and you will find Western culture everywhere. Dubai, UAE, Turkey, Malaysia etc. etc. Our media especially does this to scare all Americans. A few extremists no way represent 1 billion people and you know it. Just watch or read independent news that is publised outside the US and you will understand.

  9. I was reading some of these blogs and 3 of them were saying “if they were white”…actually if you were white

    1) you’d be arrested and took of the plane like those others by “white people”

    2)because you’re white and the authorities are white – they could care less – no discretion – you’d be treated more like shit but because “you’re white” it would be taken less of an offense and less personal

    Lets say you were an arabic individual , dark skin, on an arabic airline, in an arabic country and you said that – would less be taken in offense if you were arrested and taken off the plane by arabic authority? most likely you wouldnt have gotten a “free ride home” to thwart off any guilt

    I’m so sick of these people that try to bash the image of white people, and I’m sure they probably knew they’d would get kicked off the plane – they probably did it on purpose!

  10. Rob,

    I am really appalled by your ignorance and lack of knowledge, and wonder if computer prices should go up, so people like you should not have the chance to spread their ignorance around.

  11. Shara is absolutely right. Immigrating to the US and obtaining citizenship is not a right but a privelege.
    Remeber the oath that is required to become a citizen. Common sense is to be apprehensive about a violent and recognizable group that demonstrates concerning behavior or conversation.

    To remove and question is not “overreacting” and I feel safer knowing that the authorities do take the initiative to investigate comments such as “where is the safest part of the plane”.

    Again, if the Muslim groups did work in a very public way to eradicate the senseless and brutal violence against all people of the world by Muslim terrorists then maybe I would be a little more at ease. Simply saying that they condemn the violence by terrorists does not make me feel very safe. Stand up for the principles that America believes in, in a more convincing manner.

    I know that as a Christian I am taught to love thy neighbor and turn the other cheek but I am also taught to help those that cannot help themselves.

    Our coalition forces from around the world are trying their best to save the innocent and suppressed in Afganistan and Iraq. They are also trying to stem the tied of a growing threat of Muslim terrorism so that it does not reach our own land. This is real.

    Is oil part of the equation ? Probably. Is assimilation through both violent and non-violent means verifed in the Koran against Non-Muslims ? Yes.

    Organized religions have their faults and positives. A genuine belief in respect and assitance to those around us is what we should all strive towards regardless of who you believe is the Allah, God, Bhudda or Creator.

    Any religion that advances violence is frightening. Any person that believes the Almighty will respect them for killing people also frightens me.

  12. I think this is one of those you have to be there to really know if it warranted this treatment type of moments. Discussing where the safest place to sit on the plane is as your walking by other passengers, well, I guess the manner in which it was being said could understandably upset others. Heck, I always thought the question was moot anyhow, if a plane is going down is there really a safe part? I can see how the topic may disturb others just sitting within listening distance. Like anything, I think folks need to realize that when they are in public places like this everyone can listen in on a conversation and open it up to their own interpretation.

  13. I agree with Shara. If more Muslims stood up for and started criticizing then the world wiil react differently. Where were the Muslim leaders when Israel was getting pounded by rockets everyday or when India was besiged by terrorist

    Come up on TV and codemn what is wrong. If a Catholic priest does pedophilia he goes to jail. A Arab man marries a 8 year old and judges in Saudi Arabia condone it because the prophet did it. No group or religion is evil Christians burnt witches, Hindus had widows thrown into funeral pyres of their husbands, the Jews did eye for eye but by an large the world’s older religions have matured. Its time for Islam to do the same.

  14. Boo freakin who!!!! So a concerned citizen or two got worried aboard an AIRPLANE and called authorities which removed the suspicious passengers….cry me a g0ddamned river you bleeding heart pansies!!!!

    A family member said “We’re proud Americans”, well GOD (not ALLAH) bless you then, but you MUST know the county you willingly choose to live in (and why is that? Freedom, perchance? Maybe financial?) loves all it’s citizens in a peculiar kind of way. We love to have differences, you know…the kind that is part of that “melting pot” Lady Liberty speaks of…but we also come together for one another like nobody’s business when the chips are down. Tell me, who’s the first to send aid for starving kids in Africa? Or the first to render aid for mass devastation due to earthquake in say…India or Turkey? Yeah….NOW tell me, how many countries came to OUR aid when Katrina hit? Better yet, where was Turkey or ANYONE else when those Muslim-hijacked planes brought down a few buildings in New York? Dancing in the fuqing streets thats where!

    So you’ll “forgive” us jittery Americans for being allergic to 500mph pressuried aluminum death!

    Over in the Middle-East, that kind of sh!t has been going on for a few decades, and quite frankly they’re (sadly) accustomed to it. You see, here in the ‘states this does NOT happen on our soil, and we will do ANYTHING to ensure it doesnt happen again.

    Rhetorical question: Name and date the last NON-muslim that hijacked a plane? How many died? Where did it crash-land?

    Yeah….my point exactly.

    Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all (or a good g0d damn high percentage of them) terrorists are Muslim. DUH, we can leave out the largely irrelevant IRA, Timothy McVeigh from 13 yrs ago, and maybe a Russian cell or some such in recent memory. WHAT DO WE HAVE LEFT???

    When it’s written in the Muslim Holy Book to “kill the infidels” we kinda have a problem with that “religion”….so GOD FORBID we profile those kinds of folk to reduce the chances of another 3000 CIVILIANS from being killed.

    It’s funny, when a Muslim or two get inconvenienced, Christian people of all colors and creeds rush to their defense and publicly display outrage and demand retribution….BUT….when a Christian, excuse me, I meant to say INFIDEL, gets brutally murdered at the hands of one or many Muslims, where the fuq is the rest of the Muslim community pooh-poohing that action? Too busy dancing in the streets to phone your congressman?

    Two-faced, hypocritical, inconsistent.

    You get YOUR sh!t straight first, Mr Muslim. Maybe then you can get my sympathy vote


  15. Basically this muslim family are guilty of forgetting they were muslim. Essentially, this was the equivalent being black in the 50s and forgetting to not notice an attractive white woman. Victims of circumstance…

  16. Ha, i can just laugh at some comments that people write. Like the one from kanchan. If it was a native american who is a muslim, then too people would have suspected. Its certainly religion, but i dont think its discrimination. If it was a white then it wouldnt have been considered discrimination isnt it. Its always exaggerated. First remember that all terrorists are Muslims, isnt it .. and how many muslims openly criticize terrorists ? How many muslims get ready to kill if something is said about Islam (i would say all). Islam itself is a radical religion, and till muslims learn patience, and until muslims start hating terrorists, muslims annd islam will be associated with terrorists and hence the scare, which is rightful and correct.

  17. When I first saw this story break on the news, it broke my heart. I am an immigrant from East Asia (and Christian by faith) and I could easily imagine that it could have been me and my family being escorted off that AirTran plane. Had it been some Caucasian folks discussing where the safest place to sit on the plane was, or made a comment that the engine could be seen right outside their window, I am 99% sure that the Federal Marshalls wouldn’t have been called in to investigate. To be escorted off the plane by law enforcement officials in front of everyone on board (and knowing within yourself that you had done nothing wrong) is humiliating. Can’t you just hear the groans and whispered complaints on the plane?- “Why’d they let those Muslim/Terrorists on MY flight, now we all have to de-Plane and go through security again… Damn Islamics; now we are all gonna be late”. After being cleared and helped by the FBI to get on another flight, they were again refused. Someone made an erroneous report that one member of the party was irate and made some inappropriate comments. The airline’s gate staff wields quite a bit of power, don’t you think? No matter how respectful and meek you are in complying with Federal Agents, the FBI and other standard security procedures, the ground staff can still punish you for whatever reason they want by refusing to fly you.
    In addition to being fully compensated, I think that all of the passengers who were inconvenienced on that flight should receive a full explanation of what went on that afternoon. That explanation should include a full exoneration of wrongdoing of the family that was escorted off the airplane in front of them. The ground staff person who falsly reported that one of the family members was irate and acted inappropriately should be identified and AirTran should report what will happen to that employee (re-assignment, re-training, etc).
    This family has nothing to do with terrorism. They are law-abiding citizens who contribute to American life in a very peaceful and productive way. Why were they singled out and denied their wish to go on vacation as planned? Well, the women wore head coverings and the men had moustaches and beards. Oh, and they had darker complexions…
    Sometimes I think that if we weren’t “fighting terrorism”, and involved in a bunch of wars in the Middle East, public enemy #1 might be China and Asians in general. You know, all of the manufacturing jobs going across the Pacific with East Asia’s economies surging, etc? Then my ‘slanted eyes’, yellow skin and dark hair night be the markers of distinction that would cause fellow non-Asian Americans to deny me a nice hotel room, a quicker passage through security screening, a good table in a nice restaurant, a senior executive job, a date with their son or daughter; and kick me off of airplanes for the helluvit. And how do I explain all of this to my young children? – about what it means to be an American?
    You monsters that are defending Airtrans’ following of proper procedures have probably never walked 50 yards in my shoes.

  18. I think that everyone, irrespective of their ethnicity or religion should be a little more guarded as to the sort of comments they make or conversations they have at an airport or in an airplane. It is strange that even the wife of one of the bothers said the following “When we were talking, when we turned around, I noticed a couple of girls kind of snapped their heads…I kind of thought to myself, ‘Oh, you know, maybe they’re going to say something.’ It didn’t occur to me that they were going to make it such a big issue.” Well, it did become a big issue primarily due to the words she uttered regarding the safest place in a plane. Who discusses such a thing or asks such a question anyway while aboard an aircraft? Believe me, I’d be alarmed as well even if these words were spoken by a caucasian. All this being said, the airline should have rebooked them after they were cleared by the FBI.

  19. @Rob: And I don’t understand why the western troops have invaded the Muslim world in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan where they’re killing countless innocent civilians. The fact is that, it has been the failed US policies that have caused hatred among the Muslims and I personally think that terrorism has spread and increased due to the policies of the Bush Administration and because of that everyone especially the Muslims not only in the US but the entire world are suffering.


  21. Rob wrote:
    “It was a good move by AirTran, considering the nature of events around the world and how Muslims as a whole feel about the west”

    Muslims as a whole? Do share with me your expertise on the Muslim mentality and how “as a whole” Muslims feel… A small radical group is not the whole. That’s like me saying, “All you white Christians are the same.” Hitler was a white Christian, as were the unabomber, and Jeffrey Dahmer among numerous other criminals. So using your argument, white Christians as a whole must have the mentality of serial killers.

    Your argument doesn’t sound so good when it’s flipped on it’s head, does it…?

  22. I always thought that tickets had seats assigned to them…so if it is the same on this airline why didn’t they just sit down. We are living in a different world and people just have to get used to it and respect it, not always call it profiling…sorry that excuse just isn’t cutting for me anymore.

  23. You know, I read all posted above me with interest…the funny thing is…many people talk about a safe area in the plane…there were many tv specials and many have a fear of flying or some sort of anxiety. If a blond white woman of no visible religious affiliation had that discussion with another while boardin, many would have attributed this to the abovementioned cause…
    Note that all but one of these people were born in the USA and felt a sense of ownership equivalent to any other American towards their rights within their country. Imagine the children and what they understand from this incident…America is slowly rolling from it’s supposed city atop a hill morality into the abyss.

  24. Maher Arar is the Canadian wireless technology consultant who’d been vacationing in Tunisia when, on a lay-over at John Kennedy Airport on Sept 26, 2002, American authorities seized him, sent him to Syria via Jordan (“rendered him” as part of their outsourced torture program) and let Arar languish in a Syrian jail, where he was beaten and “kept in a coffin-size dungeon” for ten months. He was then released, a tacit admission that neither the Syrians nor the Americans had managed to tag him with any link to terrorism. And in fact he had none. Last September, following a federal investigation, the Canadian government essentially said this: “our bad.” Canadians had sent the U.S. faulty information on Arar. “The inquiry, which focused on the Canadian intelligence services, found that agents who were under pressure to find terrorists after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, falsely labeled … Arar, as a dangerous radical,” the Post reported. They asked U.S. authorities to put him and his wife, a university economist, on the al-Qaeda “watchlist” without justification, the report said. Arar was also listed as “an Islamic extremist individual” who was in the Washington area on Sept. 11. The report concluded that he had no involvement in Islamic extremism and was on business in San Diego that day. (Makes you wonder how many of those 14,000 individuals illegally heldby American authorities in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, without charge, have been condemned on the basis of similarly bogus tips.) But the Canadian commission also found that at no point did Canadian authorities agree to the detention or rendition of Arar to Syria.

    It gets worse. The Canadian government has since been trying to make amends. In December the Canadian Arar Commission released a second report, this time recommending a full review of intelligence agencies’ procedures, information sharing and cooperative methods with foreign agencies. But the Arar story has already been replicated. Arar himself at his web site explains why he made his story public three years ago. “My third objective,” he wrote, “was to make sure that this does not happen to any other Canadian. Unfortunately this has already happened to three other Canadian citizens: Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El-Maati and Muayyed Nureddin. The similarities between their cases and mine are striking. We were all detained at the same branch of the Syrian military intelligence, tortured by the same people and asked questions that would be of interest to Canadian police and security agencies. It is my hope that the government acts on its promise and holds an independent review of their cases, as recommended by Justice O’Connor in his report.”

    The United States, by the way, never participated in the original inquiry that cleared Arar. Why? Because the United States doesn’t do foreign policy or national security in tandem with other nations unless it has something to gain from it. In the all-telling words of Richard Armitage, the Bush junta’s deputy secretary of state and Colin Powell’s right-hand man, “Look, ****er, you do what we want.” And so, for a while, the Canadians did. This week, the Canadian government asked the U.S. government to remove Arar from a terrorist watch list. The list obviously keeps Arar from traveling freely to the United States, and given the American government’s tendency to share some damaging information about foreigners in its dossiers, it could also make it difficult for him to travel elsewhere. The U.S. government’s response? “It’s a little presumptuous for [ Canada] to say who the U.S. can and cannot allow into our country,” the American ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, told reporters in Edmonton. So Arar’s story comes full circle. The man who’d have likely never raised an eyebrow from American border cops and the FBI but for a warning from Canada that proved false is now tagged for life as a potential terrorist because the United States refuses to comply with a Canadian inquiry clearing Arar of all suspicions.

  25. Thank my Christianist god that my paranoid, American comrades were able to falsely and anonymously accuse un-American activity, like looking different, in the name of safety and security in these dangerous times.

    You know how evil and violent these Musilmans can be. They’re attacking Israel, they’re invading our middle east and they smell bad. Thank God our American companies like Lockheed and GE sell weapons to their repressive governments to contain their self-righteous ideas of justice. It’s all America now, baby!

    Well, I gotta get back to studying history at my failing charter school – we’re reading the Old Testiments.

  26. Ben Dover get your facts right… a quick search on Katrina foreign aid and I found two articles…

    Katrina aid – UAE

    Katrina aid – Kuwait, Qata … even Iran, North Korea and Syria (Axis of Evil – remember the heart warming speech) offered to help…

    Do note, the US has a tendancy to make show pride in American power and we americans don’t need or want help except for those who are like.. I do recall the Saudis offering financial supports in the immediate days following 9/11 but Gio … (New York mayor at the time) turned it down in a speech that was meant to kick start his presidential campaign… HIM President of the USA.. NOW THAT IS A SCARY THOUGHT

  27. Lot of stupid people here who tend to reinforce negative stereotypes of Americans. First, Muslims are no more violent than any other religious group-and far less violent than Christians. Christians killed uncounted millions of my people here in the Americas. Three million killed in Vietnam, over one million in Iraq. All killed either for their land and resources or to force acceptance of compliant governments. Textbook terrorism. Yet dumbass White Christians think MUSLIMS are the terrorists ? And you guys think MUSLIMS shouldn’t be allowed to come to the US. You damn terrorists slaughtered my people for our land. You White Christians are the illegal immigrants. You have no shame, to say Muslims shouldn’t come here. You damn terrorists should all go back to Europe where you belong. I for one welcome Muslims. They are good, God-fearing people and they never killed any of my people.

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