A group of 40 Michigan Muslims said Tuesday they were unfairly profiled earlier this month when they were not allowed to board a Northwest Airlines flight in Germany on their way home from a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

A Northwest spokesman said that the travelers reported to the gate Jan. 7 in Frankfurt, Germany, only about 20 minutes before their connecting flight was due to take off. Airline and international rules stipulate that passengers must check in for international flights at least an hour before departure and be onboard the aircraft at least 30 minutes beforehand.

"They showed up at the last minute," spokesman Dean Breest told The Detroit News.

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But the Muslim pilgrims and the Council on American Islamic Relations rejected the airline's statement at a news conference Tuesday, saying flight rules are at least the third reason given for the incident.

"We arrived at the gate at least an hour and 30 minutes before the departure," said Imam Sayed Hassan al-Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn. "Others who came after us were allowed to board the airplane."

Al-Qazwini told the Detroit Free Press the airline was likely afraid of having 40 Muslims together on one flight.

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