On November 19 in Minneapolis, six Muslim imams who were returning home after attending a national conference of their professional association, were handcuffed and removed from US Airways flight 300. Their removal was sought by the airline when a concerned passenger complained after witnessing these imams praying at the airport. The Canadian Muslim Union (CMU), a community-based, non-profit organisation, which espouses secular democracy, has identified this incident as yet another case of racial profiling that puts Muslim travellers completely at the whims and caprice of the culturally ignorant and insensitive fellow travellers and to the equally thoughtless airline staff.
Sadly, the insult and offence to the Muslim communities of North America was compounded by the airline’s refusal to apologise and by the virtual blackout of the news by the mainstream media. The few pundits who have spoken on the topic brushed aside any suggestions of racial profiling and have exonerated the airline and the Homeland Security personnel on the grounds that the tragic events of 9/11 are sufficient to justify “behaviour profiling” of air travellers who happen to be Muslim. The CMU has expressed grave concerns that specific religious practices, such as praying in public or reciting Muslim holy book Qura’an are deemed behaviours worthy of profiling. Such “behaviour profiling” practices are based entirely on ignorance and are merely a vehicle on which racial profiling would ride to tear apart the very foundation of our free and democratic society, that is, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms.
It also noted that people of other races praying before or during flight, or reading the bible, are not subjected to such treatment.
The CMU asks for an impartial enquiry into the event and for the US Airlines to tender an unconditional apology to the imams. While noting that Muslims or people who may be mistaken for Muslims already have ample reasons to avoid air travel, the CMU suggests that in the absence of an apology, the airline may experience a further loss in business from Muslim travellers who now have specific grounds to avoid this airline.