Attorney for Imams Signals Possible Legal Action


The case involving six Muslim Imams, who were removed from a flight in Minneapolis, might be decided in court, according to Arsalan Iftikhar, the attorney at the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), who’s retained by five of the six Imams.
“We believe there is a possibility of a legal action against US Airways,” said Iftikhar. “But we hope to sit down with them first.”

He wouldn’t go into details of what he plans to do with the case, but he said that too much disinformation about his clients was disseminated since the Nov. 20 incident.

The six Imams were among 170 Muslim leaders who attended national Imams conference in Minneapolis.

They were removed from a plane bound to Phoenix after a passenger expressed concerns over their “suspicious activities,” including, among other things, chanting “Allah” and requesting seatbelt extensions.

Airport police, FBI and Secret Service cleared them after four hours of intense questioning, but US Airways refused to fly them, giving no particular reason. An internal investigation is ongoing, the airline said.

“If US Airways had apologized to us at that point,” said Dr. Omar Shahin, who led the six Imams, “the case would’ve been put to rest.”

“But it’s too late now.”

He denied that they’re cashing in the incident.

“We’re after justice and freedom,” he said in a telephone interview, just before he boarded a United flight to El Paso, TX., where he’s speaking at a seminar, as he does at least once a week. “If [legal action] is the only language [US Airways] understands, we’ll do it.”

Calls to US Airways headquarters in Tempe, AZ., were not immediately returned by Thursday afternoon.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is still investigating the case.

Iftikhar, the Imams’ attorney, said that he sent a letter to US Airways on Wednesday, but he hasn’t heard from them. “It’s too early to say what our next step will be,” he said.

No prayer at airports

Since the incident, Shahin, who traveled more than 60,000 miles this year alone, said that he no longer prays at airports.

“I even didn’t use the bathroom on a flight to New York last week, because I didn’t want to scare people.” he said.

Part of why they retained a lawyer, he said, is to “not see someone else—Muslim or non-Muslim—suffer as much as we did.”

The United flight he’s taking from Phoenix to El Paso, which stops at Denver, takes four times more than the one-hour direct flight that a US Airways flight would’ve taken, he explained.

“But I chose dignity over convenience,” he said.