flying while brown: nine muslim passengers pulled from plane for "suspicious" remarks

Uh oh. Another case of Flying While Brown. Absolutely friggin' ridiculous. On New Year's Day, officials for AirTran Airways pulled nine Muslim passengers off a domestic flight and refused to rebook them. Their crime? Having a simple conversation about the safest place to sit on the place in the event of an accident: 9 Muslims Are Pulled From Plane and Denied Re-entry; Airline Apologizes Next Day.

The incident occurred at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport when the families of Atif Irfan and his brother Kashif Irfan, who are Pakistani American, were boarding a flight to Orlando. Other passengers apparently overheard these "suspicious" remarks and reported it to flight attendants. Funny, you think anyone would've batted an eye if Joe Caucasian had been overheard making these same remarks? More here: 9 Muslim Passengers Removed From Jet.

Maybe it wasn't something Atif's wife should have wondered aloud. People are jumpy. But let's be real -- these individuals were profiled because of their appearance. Five of the six adults in the party are of South Asian descent, and all are traditionally Muslim in appearance, with the men wearing beards and the women in headscarves. Some idiot passengers got scared and tattled.

Even after the FBI had cleared the passengers -- all American-born United States citizens except for one -- AirTran refused to let them back on the plane. They had to buy tickets on US Airways. The airline later called the incident a "misunderstanding" and apologized to all 104 passengers, including the nine detained: AirTran apologizes to Muslim family removed from plane.

Irfan says he's grateful AirTran's apology, but they haven't ruled out the possibility of legal action. I wouldn't either. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, on behalf of the Muslim passengers, has filed a complaint with the aviation consumer protection division of the Transportation Department requesting an investigation.

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