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Wed, Nov 22, 2006

Uproar After Six Muslim Men Removed From US Airways Flight

Passengers Express Concern Over Suspect Behavior

Six Muslim scholars were removed from a US Airways flight at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Monday, after passengers expressed concern over what they called the men's suspicious behavior.

Flight 300, bound for Phoenix, was still at the gate when the men were asked to step off the plane to speak with officials. Passengers said the men had been "praying loudly in the gate area. Some were heard to be making statements against the US involvement in Iraq," said Pat Hogan, spokesman for the airport, to Bloomberg.

When the men boarded the plane, they also reportedly demanded to change seats and asked for safety-belt extensions, which they then put under their seats.

Several of the men repeatedly said "Allah" as they boarded, Hogan said, and one was overheard saying he would "go to whatever measures necessary to obey all that is set out in the Koran."

All six imams -- or prayer leaders -- were questioned by the Secret Service, FBI and US Marshal's Office. They were later released.

"Our involvement was to see if there was any criminal activity," Hogan said. ``There was no evidence to support that."

One of the men says he felt "humiliated" after he was led off the plane, adding those who felt threatened by their prayers are ignorant of Islamic practices.

"I never felt bad in my life like that," said Omar Shahin, who lives in Phoenix. "I never. Six imams. Six leaders in this country. Six scholars in handcuffs. It's terrible."

All six men were returning from a national conference of imams held in Minneapolis.

The men were engaged in "the performance of normal evening prayers offered by members of the group," the Council on American-Islamic Relations said.

"We are concerned that crew members, passengers and security personnel may have succumbed to fear and prejudice based on stereotyping of Muslims and Islam," added Nihad Awad, the council's executive director.

Awad also said US Airways refused to put the men on another flight. On Tuesday, the Council called for congressional hearings on religious and ethnic profiling at airports.

FMI: www.usairways.com, www.cair-net.org

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