Like most, when I first heard of the six imams that were detained after raising suspicion on US Airways flight 300 from Minneapolis to Phoenix, I was confused. Was their only crime praying as Muslims do? What was it that they had done that made US Airways refuse to sell tickets to them for their return flight to Phoenix? Were those on-board so bigoted as to refuse passage to six meek Muslim imams?
Well, it seems it wasn't quite as simple as that. There is much more to the story than was first told by the media. While true that they raised suspicion by "praying very loud," the most disconcerting thing they did was to switch their assigned seats "to a pattern associated with the September 11 terrorist attacks and also found in probes of U.S. security since the attacks -- two in the front row first-class, two in the middle of the plane on the exit aisle and two in the rear of the cabin."
As an anonymous federal air marshall stated in a Washinton Times article, "That would alarm me, they now control all of the entry and exit routes to the plane." The men also asked for seat belt extenders, though two flight attendants claim the men were not oversized. Rather than use the extenders for their intended purpose, they put them on the floor of the plane. Witnesses also stated that the imams criticized "the war in Iraq and President Bush," and talked "about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden."
Robert Mclean, a former air marshall is quoted in the article as saying, "They should have been denied boarding and been investigated. It looks like they are trying to create public sympathy or maybe setting someone up for a lawsuit."
Since the six imams were removed from the plane in handcuffs, a wave of publicity has surrounded them as they have had press conferences, protests were held in Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C.
The eye witness accounts all seem to demonstrate that US Airways officials used wisdom and due diligence in protecting for their passengers and employees. This no longer appears to be a case of bigotry, but a proper response to suspicious behaviors.