CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Two Muslim religious leaders who were removed from a commercial airliner in Memphis say they were told it was because the pilot refused to fly with them aboard.
Masudur Rahman and Mohamed Zaghloul were supposed to travel on an 8:30 a.m. Delta flight, run by a subsidiary, from Memphis, Tenn. to Charlotte. They were traveling to attend a conference of the North American Imam Federation that, ironically, intends to address prejudice against Muslims.
After the plane started taxiing, he said the pilot announced the flight was headed back to the gate. Both men were removed from the plane, and screened again.
After that security check, he said a Delta employee at the gate informed him that the pilot of the flight would not allow him on board. He says the employees in the airport were very apologetic--even angry--and said they tried repeatedly to convince the pilot that he was wrong.
Back in Charlotte, Rahman, a professor at University of Memphis, compared the incident to the story of Rosa Parks.
"That history I found today in that plane, and it shouldn’t happen with any other person," he said.
Charlotte-based attorney Mo Idlibi, who accompanied the men once they arrived in Charlotte, said his clients' would like to see more training for pilots about this sensitive issue. Idlibi continues to investigate the option of a lawsuit.
Idlibi said there is precedent on this issue. U.S. Airways recently settled a lawsuit filed by six imams who were removed from a plane in Minneapolis in 2006. Those men had been traveling to the North American Imam Federation conference as well.