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"Driving while black, flying while Muslim..."

MAS Freedom Foundation Leads Interfaith Response to Air Travel Profiling

Date Posted: Monday, November 27, 2006

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful




Mahdi Bray, MAS Freedom, (202) 496-1288

Muslim, Jewish and Christian Clerics Condemn Discrimination Against Imams and Others at Press Conference at Reagan National Airport on November 27th.

WASHINGTON, DC - Nov. 27, 2006 (MASNET) Speaking before a large national and international media audience near the U.S. Airways ticket counter at Reagan National Airport near the nation's capital, representative leaders from the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities spoke unanimously against the religious profiling and discrimination which lead last week to the expulsion of six leading Imams from a U.S. Airways Minneapolis-to-Phoenix flight.

The Imams, who had previously gone through airport security screening, were pulled from the flight because another passenger had witnessed three of them performing salat (prayer) and subsequently contacted a member of the aircraft's flight crew to complain about their "suspicious" behavior. They were also prevented that evening from purchasing return tickets on all other air carriers with flights between Minneapolis and Phoenix.

Imam Omar Shahin, a Professor of Islamic Law and the President of the North American Imams Federation, was one of the six Imams places in detention. He noted that the humiliation of the arrest and detention was "the worst day of my life", and vowed to continue to teach the proper understanding of Islam to people in the United States.

Dr. Shahin was joined by Imam Mahdi Bray, Executive Director of the MAS Freedom Foundation, Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center of Philadelphia, Rev. Graylan Hagler of the United Church of Christ, Reverend and former Member of the House of Representatives Walter Fauntroy, and Washington N.A.A.C.P. Director Hillary Shelton, in calling upon U.S. Airways to issue a formal apology to the Imams, and to make restitution to them for being handcuffed, removed from their flight, and detained for more than twelve hours in the Minneapolis Airport on November 20th.

Calling the actions of U.S. Airways "contrary to the spirit of tolerance and equality that defines the best of American traditions", the representatives of the three Abrahamic faiths unanimously agreed that the actions of the Imams, and their identities as Muslims, neither violated the law nor posed any danger whatsoever to the other passengers of the aircraft.

In an eloquent and emotionally moving statement, Rabbi Waskow recalled how, as a young man, he heard another person refer to a Black person by a derogatory epithet in the Yiddish language. "I told him that he must never use such a word", the Rabbi said. "Even a seemingly small example of bigotry can grow into something far more dangerous."

Following the press conference, the religious leaders and others in their group made public prayers in the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian traditions.

A large prayer and interfaith response is planned at the Tempe, AZ corporate headquarters of U.S. Airways. In addition, the MAS Freedom Foundation will collaborate with the Washington, D.C. N.A.A.C.P. and the office of Rep.John Conyers of Detroit, who is likely to chair the House Judiciary Committee in 2007, to introduce legislation against racial and religious profiling in public transportation and law enforcement.

"This issue is not only about Muslims-it's about religious freedom", said Imam Bray. "We're putting U.S. Airways and all other air carriers on notice that whether it pertains to driving while black, flying while Muslim, traveling with a Torah, or jetting with Jesus, religious and racial profiling is unacceptable in America."

"We are committed as faith partners to the concept of faith over fear, and justice for all."



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