WASHINGTON – Imams, ministers and a rabbi staged a "pray-in" demonstration Monday at Reagan Washington National Airport and demanded an apology from US Airways for barring six Muslims from a Minneapolis-to-Phoenix flight last week.
The religious leaders called for an end to racial profiling, saying it was unacceptable in America.
"These things are troubling to us," said Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation. "Driving while black, flying while Muslim, traveling with a Torah or getting with Jesus."
Imam Omar Shahin, one of the six detained last Monday at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, said they hadn't done anything suspicious.
The imams, who were returning from a religious conference, had prayed on their prayer rugs in the airport before the flight. After they boarded the flight, a passenger, who was alarmed by their activity, passed a note to a flight attendant. The men were taken off the airplane, handcuffed and questioned.
"It was the worst moment in my life," Shahin said.
Last week, US Airways Group Inc. issued a statement saying it was interviewing crew members and ground workers to find out more about what happened. "We are always concerned when passengers are inconvenienced and especially concerned when a situation occurs that causes customers to feel their dignity was compromised. We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind," the airline said.
On Monday, Shahin and a handful of other Muslims bowed down on rugs and prayed in Terminal A near the US Airways ticket counter. Jewish and Christian clergy also said prayers.
Hillary Shelton, director of the NAACP national office, called on Congress to pass legislation that would end racial profiling. The bill is necessary because airlines are unclear how to deal with racial and ethnic profiling, he said.