Tags: muslims | airtran | DC

Muslim Passengers Removed from Flight in D.C.

Friday, 02 Jan 2009 08:58 AM

By Kenneth D. Williams

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WASHINGTON -- AirTran Airlines says the removal of nine Muslim passengers from a New Year's Day flight is all a big misunderstanding, but no one was wronged.

All but one of the passengers were U.S.-born citizens and were subsequently cleared by the FBI for travel on another airline.

A source told FOX 5 in Washington D.C. that the Irfans were not allowed on another Airtran plane because while trying to re-book their flight, someone in the family mentioned domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh and said the word 'bomb'.

One of the passengers, Kashif Irfan, told The Washington Post the confusion began when his brother remarked aloud that the plane's jets were next to his window. Two other passengers reported hearing what they considered to be a suspicious remark.

"You know we're very careful about what we even say on the plane," said Atif Irfan, who was also kicked off the flight. "Even if we were to say that's the bomb, we wouldn't even say that on the plane because we know to avoid certain buzz words. And we're very careful about this kind of stuff so. I don't know where they would have thought this whole incident even started from, quite frankly - what words we used."

Federal officials ordered all 104 passengers from the plane and re-screened them before allowing the flight to depart.

AirTran spokesman Tad Hutcheson says the airline strictly followed federal rules and says the airline did nothing wrong.

However, CNN reports that Irfan said he believes his family is owed an apology.

"Really, at the end of the day, we're not out here looking for money. I'm an attorney. I know how the court system works. We're basically looking for someone to say... 'We're apologizing for treating you as second-class citizens.'"

Abdul Aziz, a Library of Congress attorney and friend of the family who was coincidentally on the same flight, but who was also removed, said there is a "very strong possibility" he will pursue a civil rights lawsuit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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