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Flight Attendant Tells Muslim Man ‘I’ll Be Watching You,’ Then Kicks Him Off The Plane

An American Airlines jet. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/SUSAN WALSH
An American Airlines jet. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/SUSAN WALSH

A Muslim man was kicked off an American Airlines plane after a flight attendant announced to other passengers his name and seat number, warning him “I’ll be watching you.”

According to the Independent, Mohamed Ahmed Radwan was greeted with an ominous message as he boarded a plane in Charlotte, North Carolina in December 2015: a flight attendant grabbed the plane’s public address system and announced “Mohamed Ahmed, Seat 25-A: I will be watching you.”

As Radwan stored his belongings, the flight attendant reportedly made the same announcement two more times, saying, “Mohamed Ahmed, that is a very long name, seat 25-A: I will be watching you,” and “25-A: you will be watched.”

Mohamed Ahmed, that is a very long name, seat 25-A: I will be watching you.

When Radwan asked the attendant later why she did not make the same announcement about other passengers, she reportedly accused him of being “too sensitive.” Two other American Airlines employees then approached him to inquire about the incident, after which Radwan was promptly escorted off the plane. The listed reason: he made the flight attendant “uncomfortable.”

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Radwan approached the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights group, for assistance after the incident, hoping to find a resolution with the airline. After months of deliberations, however, CAIR filed a complaint on Wednesday asking the Department of Transportation to investigate the case, arguing Radwan was removed for discriminatory reasons.

“…It is apparent American Airlines removed Mr. Radwan from his flight not out of a legitimate and credible concern or need, but because of his identifiably Arabic and Muslim name,” the complaint read.

An American Airlines spokeswoman offered the following statement to the Independent in response: “American [Airlines] was contacted by CAIR earlier this year. We thoroughly reviewed these allegations and concluded that no discrimination occurred. We serve customers of all backgrounds and faiths and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”

Anti-Muslim profiling at airports — or discrimination directed against those who are simply perceived to be Muslim — has spiked in recent months. Since the November 2015 ISIS-affiliated terrorist attacks in Paris sparked a new wave of Islamophobia, ThinkProgress has tracked at least 14 incidents (including Radwan’s case) of anti-Muslim profiling enacted against people flying into and out of the United States.

Although some of the incidents revolve around the Transportation Security Administration, most were perpetrated by the airlines themselves, which usually abide by internal policies that assist passengers and flight attendants who complain but not those impacted by such complaints — such as Muslim Americans. A month before Radwan’s incident, four passengers of Middle Eastern descent were removed from a Spirit Airlines flight because one was watching the news on his phone — an action later dubbed “suspicious activity.” A month later, Sikh American and MSNBC contributor Valarie Kaur was to told by Delta Airlines personnel to display her breast pump to “prove” she wasn’t a terrorist. And in April, a UC Berkeley student and Iraqi refugee was pulled off a Southwest Airways flight allegedly for simply speaking in Arabic.

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Sometimes the incidents can turn aggressive, or even violent: in May, a 37-year-old North Carolina man pled guilty to ripping off a Muslim woman’s hijab during a December 2015 Southwest Airlines flight.