Alaska Airlines ejected two Muslims off a flight for texting in Arabic: federal lawsuit
Man texting (Shutterstock)

According to CNN, Alaska Airlines is facing a federal lawsuit from two Muslim passengers who say they were removed from a flight for speaking and texting in Arabic.

"According to a complaint filed last week in federal district court, the plaintiffs, Abobakkr Dirar and Mohamed Elamin, allege they boarded a flight from Seattle to San Francisco on February 17, 2020, and after being seated in their first-class seats, they started speaking and texting in Arabic," reported Justin Gamble. "Another passenger, who did not speak Arabic the complaint says, saw some of Dirar's text messages and told the crew who removed Dirar and Elamin from the flight due to what they claimed to be a 'ticket issue.'"

"Once Dirar and Elamin were off the flight, the men spoke with an Alaska Airlines manager who translated their text messages and the messages were deemed not to be a threat, but the men were subsequently surrounded by law enforcement, according to the complaint," said the report. "Dirar and Elamin, the complaint says, felt humiliated for being taken off the plane and being surrounded by law enforcement while allowing other passengers to observe 'humiliating Plaintiffs before their fellow passengers by unnecessarily deplaning said passengers and allowing them to observe Plaintiffs surrounded by uniformed law enforcement personnel.'"

According to the report, both men were ultimately put on later flights to San Francisco, after hours of delay, and Elamin was not given a first-class seat. The suit was delayed for two years because Alaska Airlines had promised to conduct an internal investigation in 2020, but there was never a follow-up.

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"Our greatest responsibility is to ensure that our flight operations are safe every day, and that includes complying with federal regulations on investigating any passenger safety reports," said Alaska Airlines in a statement. "Since this case remains pending litigation, we're unable to share any further comment or details at this time."

Muslim and Arabic-speaking airline passengers are frequent targets for discrimination by airline personnel and law enforcement. In 2016, a Southwest Airlines flight kicked off a California college student whose family fled Iraq after another passenger heard him say "inshallah" (God willing). And in 2013, TSA officers handcuffed a young man for carrying Arabic flashcards.