Pilot refuses to fly with two Muslims on board
Two Muslim leaders have been asked to get off a passenger plane after a pilot refused to fly his aircraft with them on board.
The two men say they that their Delta connection flight from Memphis was about to take off when the pilot decided to turn around.
Masudur Rahman, who is also an instructor of Arabic at the University of Memphis, said by telephone from the terminal at Memphis International Airport that he and another imam had been allowed onto board their flight to Charlotte, North Carolina, before they were asked to de-board.
The aircraft pulled away from the gate, but the pilot then announced the plane must return, Rahman said.
When it did, the imams were asked to go back to the boarding gate where Rahman said they were told the pilot was refusing to accept them because some other passengers could be uncomfortable.
Rahman said Delta officials talked with the pilot for more than half an hour but he still refused.
The men were taken to a lounge and booked on a later flight.
They called the Council on Islamic-American Relations, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group in Washington, D.C.
'It's racism and bias because of our religion and appearance and because of misinformation about our religion.' Rahman said. 'If they understood Islam, they wouldn't do this.'
He said a Delta manager had apologised for the pilot's actions, but that he and Zaghloul never spoke directly with the pilot.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokesman Jon Allen in Atlanta confirmed the incident but said the agency had not initiated it.
A Delta Airlines spokeswoman said the flight was operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines, which is also based in Atlanta.
Rahman said he was dressed in traditional Indian clothing and his travelling companion, Mohamed Zaghloul, of the Islamic Association of Greater Memphis, was dressed in Arab garb, including traditional headgear. He said they had both been cleared by security agents and boarded the plane for an 8:40 a.m. departure on Friday.
Ibrahim Hooper, of the Islamic-American organisation, said the said airline officials at Memphis tried to resolve the situation, but the pilot refused. He said his group would follow up with the airline and with the TSA to help ensure such incidents do not continue to occur.