A Muslim American couple was removed from a Delta Airlines plane after a flight crew member complained to the pilot that she had become suspicious over their appearance.
The woman, Nazia Ali, was wearing a head scarf and using a phone, and the man, Faisal Ali, was sweating, the flight attendant allegedly told the pilot.
The couple was returning home to Cincinnati, Ohio, from Paris, France, on July 26. They immigrated to the US with their immediate families from Pakistan and became US citizens 16 years ago.
The flight attendant reportedly said that Faisal had been “sweating” and had been heard saying the word “Allah,” the Arabic word for God. Nazia was wearing a headscarf.
“The ground agent said, ‘can you step out with me? We’d like to ask you a few questions.’ So I said, ‘Do you want us to get our things?’ And he said, ‘Yes, please grab all of your personal belongings. You’re not going to be on this flight,’” Nazia said Thursday at an Ohio office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
The couple was forced to stay overnight in Paris and were put on a flight back to Cincinnati the next day. Delta paid for their room that night at a hotel near the airport.
A US customs official who interrogated the pair when they arrived at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport told them, “You have done nothing wrong, unfortunately this is the way the world is right now.”
The whole incident has left the couple angry regarding how the crew made assumptions “based on appearance,” Nazia said. “It was humiliating. Why were we treated like criminals?”
CAIR said that the couple was the victim of discrimination and filed a complaint against Delta. The airline said it was looking into the incident and would carry out an investigation.
Karen Dabdoub, executive director of the Cincinnati chapter of CAIR, said that her organization nationally sees spikes in anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamophobia during presidential election seasons.
“There are some politicians who will try to climb that ladder of success on the backs of American-Muslims,” she said. “Of course, we’re not alone. These types of incidents are happening all across the country all too frequently. It is another symptom of the anti-Muslim behavior we see during the election season.”
In a separate incident, two American Muslim women who work for the federal government were removed Wednesday from an American Airlines flight bound for Washington, DC, from Miami, Florida. A flight attendant felt threatened by their presence, according to reports.