Two Black Muslim men are suing Alaska Airlines for being kicked off their flight in 2020. The incident came about after a passenger complained about them speaking and texting in Arabic, per NBC News. In reality, the passenger was probably projecting their racial bias onto them and assumed the two were dangerous.
Per the suit, Abobakkr Dirar and Mohamed Elamin are both Sudan-born citizens of the US. The two were sitting in first-class headed to San Francisco, making small talk in their predominant language: Arabic. Dirar used Arabic text while sending messages to a friend who was not on the plane. That’s when a nosey co-passenger got upset and raised a complaint to a flight attendant.
The two were then forced off the flight by the Alaska Airlines manager over a “ticket issue” but ended up having their phones inspected by the FBI.
Read more of the case from NBC News:
Lawyers allege that airline employees then engaged in “security theater” by removing the man who was texting and the man with whom he was speaking in Arabic, from the plane. The suit says the men were barred from flying together on the Alaska flights they had already booked, forcing them to board different Alaska flights and arrive hours late to their destinations.
Luis Segura, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is representing the men, told NBC News that an Arabic-speaking manager at the airline reviewed the text messages and deemed them nonthreatening.
The suit alleges that after Alaska Airline personnel informed law enforcement that the incident was a misunderstanding and that there was no threat to passengers, the airline “nevertheless intended to request and conduct unnecessary measures.”
The trauma of 9/11 opened up too much space for extreme Islamophobia and racism - which is exactly what Alaska Airlines ought to be accused of. According to Pew Research, hate crimes against Muslims increased 1617 percent between 2000 and 2001. Now, it’s almost normal for Muslims to be apprehended or kicked off planes in the same country where they’re supposed to be free from religious discrimination.
Per the suit, the two allege the airline “weaponized” Islamophobic, racist and xenophobic fears against them which resulted in them being traumatized and humiliated. Following the incident, they’ve even avoided riding on planes together, using their phones on airplanes and trying not to speak their native tongue just to avoid another conflict.
“You can hear in their voices now when you speak to them that it was traumatic for them. What they want is to be heard,” said their attorney, Luis Segura.