Two American Muslims ‘kicked off’ Alaska Airlines plane file lawsuit

Image: Shutterstock
Short Url
Updated 11 August 2022

Two American Muslims ‘kicked off’ Alaska Airlines plane file lawsuit

  • - Abobakkr Dirar and Mohamed Elamin claim texting and speaking in Arabic caused furor
  • - Compensation sought for ‘Islamophobic, racist and xenophobic’ actions

CHICAGO: Two Muslim American passengers filed a lawsuit this week against Alaska Airlines for allegedly kicking them off a flight, saying they were victims of racist discrimination and dissatisfied with the company’s promise to investigate the humiliation they faced.

Abobakkr Dirar and Mohamed Elamin, American citizens of Sudanese heritage, were seated in the first-class section of Flight #304 waiting for departure from Seattle to San Francisco on Feb. 17, 2020, when they were removed from the airplane, allegedly for speaking and texting in Arabic.

While they waited for takeoff, they spoke to each other and texted friends in their native language. Another passenger who overheard them speaking Arabic and saw some of their texts became “alarmed” and complained to a flight attendant, according to the lawsuit that was filed in the Western District of the State of Washington.

Dirar and Elamin were immediately escorted off the plane with the excuse of having “ticketing issues” by uniformed law enforcement personnel. Once off the flight, the two men spoke with an FBI agent called to the scene who copied and translated their text messages, later determining that they “posed no threat,” according to the lawsuit.

Although the other passengers eventually departed on the flight, Dirar and Elamin were rebooked hours later in downgraded economy class seats, and prohibited from flying together. They were each booked on separate flights.

After they complained, they were told that Alaska Airlines would investigate, but after two years of no action, Dirar and Elamin decided on Aug. 2 this year to take their complaint to a Federal Court alleging civil rights violations.

“Through its actions, Defendant (Alaska Airlines Inc.) essentially weaponized Islamophobic, racist, and xenophobic fears by using Plaintiffs as human props in an admittedly unjustified, unnecessary, and self-serving display of discriminatory security theater,” the lawsuit explains.

“By the time Plaintiffs finally reached their destination, they were too humiliated and traumatized by Defendant’s actions to enjoy their trip. Their trauma was exacerbated by knowing that such public mistreatment would give credence to Islamophobic, racist, and xenophobic beliefs which have plagued the Muslim community in the United States for decades. The emotional distress Plaintiffs suffered continues to impact them to this day, and they are retraumatized each time they consider booking a flight.”

The lawsuit further alleges: “As a result of Defendant’s discriminatory abuse on February 17, 2020, Plaintiffs have felt immense pressure to take precautions in travel which non-Arabic/Middle Eastern travelers do not have to consider and which no traveler should ever have to take.”

The precautions include actions “specifically designed to conceal and downplay their identity and avoid similar discriminatory abuse in air travel, (and) include: avoiding air travel whenever possible and, thereby, enduring long distance road trips and suffering the physical discomfort, inconvenience, loss of time, and added financial costs associated with such trips.”

They also claim that they now are forced to arrive “at the airport hours earlier than customary to account for delays from potential repeat discriminatory abuse; avoiding use of their cell phones and keeping them powered off in airports and on airplanes whenever possible; and avoiding speaking in their native Arabic in airports and on airplanes as much as possible.”

Alaska Airlines released a statement after the lawsuit was filed, stating: “Alaska Airlines strictly prohibits unlawful discrimination. We take such complaints very seriously. Our greatest responsibility is to ensure that our flight operations are safe, every day.”

The 25-page lawsuit was filed by attorneys Luis Segura and Lena F. Masri who work with CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Segura and Masri allege in the lawsuit that after the two individuals were removed from the plane, employees were instructed to remove all the “tanks” from its toilets, and they also discussed bringing in a K-9 unit to check the aircraft.

All this occurred even though Port of Seattle Police Officer Andrew Neisinger “spoke with an unnamed Alaska Airlines manager” who reported that the incident was “a misunderstanding between passengers,” that “everything was fine,” “there was no threat of any kind,” and that “police were no longer needed.”

The lawsuit demands that Alaska Airlines provide “racial and religious sensitivity training to all employees,” prevent further discrimination against other passengers based on “their religion, race, color, ethnicity, alienage or national origin,” and award the two plaintiffs unspecified financial and punitive damages to be determined by a court trial, in addition to attorney fees.

The incidents of Arab and Muslim Americans being escorted off flights, especially since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, have been quite common, Arab and Muslim American organizations have reported.

Five incidents occurred in the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, in which Muslims were told they had to leave their seats and exit aircraft.

In March 2016, an Arab American family was forced off a United Airlines flight after the mother, wearing a hijab, asked for a strap to secure a booster seat for her child. Instead, the family was told to leave the plane.

The following month in April 2016, a UC Berkley researcher was removed from a flight after other passengers complained when he spoke in Arabic.

The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee reported that similar incidents have occurred on other airlines including Allegiant, Spirit, Delta, JetBlue, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines.


Deaths after blast at educational center in Afghan capital: government 

Updated 7 sec ago

Deaths after blast at educational center in Afghan capital: government 

  • An educational center called ‘Kaj’ has been attacked in the Afghan capital Kabul 
  • Attacking civilian targets proves the enemy’s inhuman cruelty, Afghan interior ministry 

KABUL: An explosion at a learning center in the Afghan capital Kabul on Friday morning has caused fatalities, the government said.
“An educational center called ‘Kaj’ has been attacked, which unfortunately has caused deaths and injuries,” interior ministry spokesman Abdul Nafy Takor tweeted.
“Security teams have reached the site, the nature of the attack and the details of the casualties will be released later.
“Attacking civilian targets proves the enemy’s inhuman cruelty and lack of moral standards.”
Videos posted online and photos published by local media showed bloodied victims being carried away from the scene. 
 


Deaths after blast at educational center in Afghan capital: government

Updated 6 min 7 sec ago

Deaths after blast at educational center in Afghan capital: government

KABUL: An attack at a learning center in the Afghan capital Kabul on Friday morning has caused fatalities, the government said.
The blast happened in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, a predominantly Shiite Muslim area in western Kabul home to the minority Hazara community, the scene of some of Afghanistan’s most deadly attacks.
“An educational center called ‘Kaj’ has been attacked, which unfortunately has caused deaths and injuries,” interior ministry spokesman Abdul Nafy Takor tweeted.
“Security teams have reached the site, the nature of the attack and the details of the casualties will be released later.
“Attacking civilian targets proves the enemy’s inhuman cruelty and lack of moral standards.”
Videos posted online and photos published by local media showed bloodied victims being carried away from the scene.
The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan last year brought an end of the two-decade war and a significant reduction in violence, but security has begun to deteriorate in recent months under the hard-line Islamists.
Afghanistan’s Shiite Hazaras have faced persecution for decades, with the Taliban accused of abuses against the group when they first ruled from 1996 to 2001 and picking up again after they swept to power last year.
They are also the frequent target of attacks by the Taliban’s enemy the Daesh group. Both consider them heretics.
Countless attacks have devastated the area, with many targeting children, women and schools.
Last year, before the return of the Taliban, at least 85 people — mainly girl students — were killed and about 300 wounded when three bombs exploded near their school in Dasht-e-Barchi.
No group claimed responsibility, but a year earlier Daesh claimed a suicide attack on an educational center in the same area that killed 24, including students.
In May 2020, the group was blamed for a bloody gun attack on a maternity ward of a hospital in the neighborhood that killed 25 people, including new mothers.
Just months ago in April two deadly bomb blasts at separate education centers in the area killed six people and wounded at least 20 others.
Education is a flashpoint issue in Afghanistan, with the Taliban blocking many girls from returning to secondary school education, while Daesh also stand against the education of women and girls.


Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry

Updated 10 min 16 sec ago

Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry

  • The 10,600-ton Yu Shan is the latest in Taiwan’s ambitious program to modernize its armed forces

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan: Taiwan’s navy took delivery on Friday of a new, domestically made amphibious warfare ship that can be used to land troops and bolster supply lines to vulnerable islands, part of President Tsai Ing-wen’s defense self-sufficiency push.
The 10,600-ton Yu Shan, named after Taiwan’s tallest mountain, is the latest development in Tsai’s ambitious program to modernize the armed forces amid increased pressure from China, which claims the island as its own.
Speaking at the delivery ceremony in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, Tsai said the ship was a testament to Taiwan’s efforts to boost production of its own warships and achieve the goal of “national defense autonomy.”
“When it comes to China’s military threats, only by strengthening our self-defense capabilities can there be true peace,” she said. “It is our constant policy and determination to implement national defense autonomy so that the military has the best equipment to defend the country.”
China carried out war games near Taiwan last month to show its anger at a visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Chinese military activity has continued though at a much-reduced tempo.
Built by state-backed CSBC Corporation Taiwan, the ship is armed with a cannon for use against air and surface targets, anti-aircraft missiles and rapid-fire Phalanx close-in anti-aircraft and anti-missile guns.
CSBC Chairman Cheng Wen-lung said as well as being an amphibious warfare vessel, with space for landing craft and helicopters, it will assume the “main transport role” for the South China Sea and offshore Taiwanese islands that lie close to the Chinese coast, long considered easy targets for China in the event of war.
Though the United States is Taiwan’s most important international arms supplier, Tsai has bolstered the domestic arms industry to try to make Taiwan as self-sufficient as possible.
Although Taiwan’s air force has benefited from big-ticket items such as new and upgraded F-16s, the navy is another of Tsai’s focuses, with submarines in production and a launch in 2020 of the first of a fleet of highly maneuverable stealth corvettes.


Putin to host Kremlin ceremony annexing parts of Ukraine

Updated 30 September 2022

Putin to host Kremlin ceremony annexing parts of Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to host a Kremlin ceremony on Friday annexing four regions of Ukraine, while his Ukrainian counterpart said Putin would have to be stopped for Russia to avoid the most damaging consequences of the war.
There was a warning too from United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, who said the planned annexations were a “dangerous escalation” and jeopardize prospects for peace.
Putin has doubled down on the invasion he ordered in February despite suffering a major reversal on the battlefield this month and discontent in Russia over a widely criticized “partial mobilization” of thousands more men to fight in Ukraine. Russia calls the war in Ukraine a “special operation.”
“The cost of one person in Russia wanting to continue this war is that Russian society will be left without a normal economy, a worthwhile life, or any respect for humanitarian values,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Thursday evening address.
“It can still be stopped. But to stop it we have to stop that person in Russia who wants war more than life. Your lives, citizens of Russia,” said Zelensky, who earlier spoke of Ukraine delivering a “very harsh” reaction to Russian recognition of so-called referendum results.
Moscow plans annexation of eastern and southern provinces after what Ukraine and Western countries said were sham votes staged at gunpoint in Russian-occupied areas of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. The territory Russia controls amounts to more than 90,000 square km, or about 15 percent of Ukraine’s total area — equal to the size of Hungary or Portugal.
Putin took the intermediary step of signing decrees on Thursday paving the way for occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to be formally annexed into Russia. The decrees were made public by the Kremlin.
Zelensky promised a strong response to the annexations and summoned his defense and security chiefs for an emergency meeting on Friday where “fundamental decisions” will be taken, an official said.

CEREMONY
On the eve of the planned ceremony in the Georgievsky Hall of the Great Kremlin Palace and a concert in Red Square, Putin said that “all mistakes” made in a call-up announced last week should be corrected, his first public acknowledgment that it had not gone smoothly.
Thousands of men have fled Russia to avoid a draft that was billed as enlisting those with military experience and required specialities but has often appeared oblivious to individuals’ service record, health, student status or even age.
Russia says the referendums, ostensibly asking people in the four regions whether they wanted to be part of Russia, were genuine and showed public support.
At Friday’s event, Putin will give a speech, meet leaders of the self-styled Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) as well as the Russian-installed leaders of the parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia that Russian forces occupy.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not say whether Putin would attend the Red Square concert, as he did a similar event in 2014 after Russia proclaimed it had annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region.
A stage has been set up on the Moscow square with giant video screens and billboards proclaiming the four areas part of Russia.
“Any decision to proceed with the annexation ... would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned,” United Nations Secretary General Guterres told reporters.
US President Joe Biden said the United States would never recognize Russia’s claims on Ukraine’s territory, denouncing the referendums. “The results were manufactured in Moscow,” Biden said at a conference of Pacific Island leaders on Thursday.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan pressed Putin in a call to take steps to reduce tensions in Ukraine.

NUCLEAR UMBRELLA
Russian government officials have said that the four regions will fall under Moscow’s nuclear umbrella once they have been formally incorporated into Russia. Putin has said he could use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory if necessary.
Washington and the European Union are set to impose additional sanctions on Russia over the annexation plan, and even some of Russia’s close traditional allies, such as Serbia and Kazakhstan, say they will not recognize the move.
What Russia is billing as a celebration comes after Moscow has faced its worst setbacks of the seven-month-old war, with its forces routed in Ukraine’s northeast Kharkiv region.
Heavy fighting continues in the four disputed regions, particularly Donetsk and Luhansk.
“Our situation (in Luhansk region) is more difficult than in the Kharkiv region. There is no effect of surprise here,” Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Thursday. “They (the Armed Forces of Ukraine) are advancing. And I hope we will receive very positive news in the near future.”
Some military experts say Kyiv is poised to deliver another major defeat, gradually encircling the town of Lyman, Russia’s main remaining bastion in the northern part of Donetsk province.
“The most difficult area for us remains (Lyman). Allied forces are holding their ground. And given that reinforcements will be coming, I believe we will make a breakthrough there,” Denis Pushilin, leader of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, said on Telegram.


US Senate approves $12 billion in new aid for Ukraine

Updated 29 September 2022

US Senate approves $12 billion in new aid for Ukraine

  • It provides $4.5 billion for Kyiv to keep the country's finances stable and keep the government running
  • It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to declare the annexation of parts of Ukraine

WASHINGTON: The US Senate approved $12 billion in new economic and military aid for Ukraine Thursday as part of a stopgap extension of the federal budget into December.
The measure, agreed by senators of both parties, includes $3 billion for arms, supplies and salaries for Ukraine’s military, and authorizes President Joe Biden to direct the US Defense Department to take $3.7 billion worth of its own weapons and materiel to provide Ukraine.
It also provides $4.5 billion for Kyiv to keep the country’s finances stable and keep the government running, providing services to the Ukrainian people.
It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to declare the annexation of parts of Ukraine occupied by Russian troops on Friday.
“Seven months since the conflict began, it’s crystal clear that American assistance has gone a long way to helping the Ukrainian people resist Putin’s evil, vicious aggression,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“But the fight is far from over, and we must, we must, continue helping the brave, valiant Ukrainian people.”
The Ukraine aid is part of a short-term extension of the federal budget, which is to expire at the end of the fiscal year on September 30 without the parties in Congress having agreed to a full-year allocation for fiscal 2022-23.
The extension, or continuing resolution, will keep the government running into December, but it has to first be approved by the House of Representatives to avoid shutting down parts of the government on Monday.