American, Mesa Airlines Accused of Racially Profiling Two Muslim Men

Both men say their bags were searched a second time and were eventually allowed to board the rescheduled flight hours later

Two Muslim men from North Texas say they were racially profiled on a recent American Airlines flight from Birmingham, Alabama to DFW.

Abderraoof Alkhawaldeh and Issam Abdallah say their Sept. 14 flight from Birmingham, Alabama, to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was deplaned after a member of the flight crew found them "suspicious."

According to a statement from American Airlines, the flight, which was operated by Mesa Airlines, was canceled "due to concerns raised by a crew member and a passenger." Independently owned Mesa Airlines handles some flights for American Airlines.

Abdallah says after leaving the plane he and Alkhawaldeh were approached by an FBI agent.

"I asked him what's the reason, he (FBI agent) said I went to the restroom and I flushed twice," Abdallah said. "It was a really humiliating situation in front of everybody, I felt like they were discriminating against my ethnicity and my religion."

Both men say their bags were searched a second time and they were eventually allowed to board the rescheduled flight hours later.

"I have flown more than one million miles with American Airlines, I have the highest elite status, executive platinum, and to be treated with disrespect, suspicion. This is absurd, unacceptable and un-American," Alkhawaldeh said.

In a statement, Mesa Airlines told NBC 5, "The safety and security of our customers is our top priority, and we are conducting a thorough investigation of this matter."

American Airlines also told NBC 5, "Our team is working with Mesa to review this incident, and we have reached out to Mr. Alkhawaldeh and Mr. Abdallah to better understand their experience."

Alkhawaldeh and Abdallah said they filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation against the Fort Worth-based airline, asking the federal agency to investigate the incident.

The NAACP issued a travel advisory in October 2017 for American Airlines after a string of incidents in which black passengers said they were discriminated against on flights.

In June, a Miami doctor said he was removed from an American flight for his Arab and Muslim appearance and for using a phone during takeoff. He is now suing the airline in federal court. That same month, a black doctor and founder of a telemedicine service said an American Airlines crew called her romper inappropriate and told her to cover up or risk being kicked off her flight back into the U.S. from vacation in Jamaica.

On Thursday, Omar Suleiman, founder of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research in Dallas, said the profiling of Muslims is increasing, particularly at airports and on planes.

"Airports are a scary place for Muslims. Especially with the rhetoric of the president (Donald Trump)," Suleiman said.

"Most of the time people do not step forward to talk about their experiences," he added. "Instead of just addressing this issue in isolation, American Airlines could use this opportunity to create protocols that stops this from happening all the time."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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