Two black Muslim men say they were kicked off an Alaska Airlines flight in 2020 after they spoke and one was seen texting in Arabic, and are suing the airline over alleged discrimination.
That fitFiled Tuesday in federal court in the Western District of Washington, alleging that Alaska Airlines humiliated Abobakkr Dirar and Mohamed Elamin and denied them their passenger rights by exploiting “the discredited Islamophobic, racist and xenophobic allegation” made by another person on the flight .
According to the complaint, the plaintiffs, who are described as Sudanese-born American citizens who speak mostly Arabic and some English, were seated in first-class seats on a flight from Seattle to San Francisco in February 2020 when another passenger was upset after hitting a had seen them text in Arabic. The text conversation was described as a friendly banter between one of the men and another person who was not on board at the time.
Lawyers allege airline staff then engaged in “security theatre” by removing the man who was texting and the man he was speaking Arabic with from the plane. The lawsuit says the men were barred from flying together on the Alaska flights they were already booked on, forcing them to board different Alaska flights and arrive at their destinations hours late.
A spokesman for Alaska Airlines said the company would not comment on the pending lawsuit but prohibits unlawful discrimination.
“We take such complaints very seriously,” the airline said. “Our greatest responsibility is to make sure our flight operations are safe – every day.”
Luis Segura, an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations representing the men, told NBC News that an Arabic-speaking executive at the airline reviewed the text messages and found them non-threatening.
The lawsuit alleges that after Alaska Airline employees informed law enforcement that the incident was a misunderstanding and that there was no threat to passengers, the airline “nevertheless intended to request and take unnecessary action.”
“The way I see it, those two passengers were used as scapegoats,” Segura said.
Segura said the incident haunted his customers. He said they had not flown on the plane together for two years and now they turn off their phones in front of other passengers when flying. He said his clients are just two of the many Muslim Americans who fear air travel after 9/11.
“They take long drives instead of flying,” he said. “You can hear in their voices now when you talk to them that it was traumatic for them. What they want is to be heard.”
Dirar and Elamin are seeking unspecified damages and are asking a court to order the airline to train Alaska Airline employees on racial and religious sensitivities.
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/2-black-muslims-accuse-alaska-airlines-kicking-flight-texting-talking-rcna41541 Two black Muslims have accused Alaska Airlines of throwing them off the plane for texting and speaking Arabic