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Weekend produces rash of airline incidents

U.S. airlines experienced a rash of incidents over the weekend of May 7 and 8, including struggles with unruly passengers, as well as pilots refusing to take some passengers to their destinations.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) chalked some of the incidents up to a case of possible post-Bin Laden nerves.

A passenger on an American Airlines May 8 flight from Chicago to Los Angeles was subdued by fellow passengers after he rushed the cockpit door and pounded on it. He was tackled and handcuffed and arrested upon arrival in Los Angeles. The passenger was identified as Rageit Almurisibm, 28, by Los Angeles law enforcement officials. Almurisibm, they told news reporters, had a Yemeni passport, but added it was unclear if he was a Yemeni citizen.

The same day, a 34-year-old man was detained and questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigations for trying to open a door on a Continental Airlines in flight from Houston to Chicago. The flight was diverted to St. Louis. No charges were filed. Additionally, a Delta Airline flight from Detroit to San Diego landed in Albuquerque, N.M., because of a suspicious note that was found in the plane’s lavatory. The plane was searched by security personnel.

Two days earlier on May 6, the pilot of an American Southeast Airlines flight from Memphis, TN to Charlotte, NC asked two imams dressed in traditional garb traveling to a conference about Islamophobia to undergo additional security screening. The pilot ultimately left the Memphis airport without the imams.

CAIR’s Hooper said the incident involving Almurisibm could be a number of things, including a misunderstanding, although he said he didn’t have any specific details of the incident. “These things can be open to interpretation,” he said. Those interpretations, he added, could be influenced by events like the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. “We’ll have to wait and see” how the case develops, he said.

Hooper told Government Security News that the incident in Memphis involving the two imams’ ejection from the American Southeast flight was “a Juan Williams moment” referencing the former National Public Radio commentator’s acknowledgement that he was nervous when he sees Muslims in traditional garb on aircraft.

“It can make some people uncomfortable,” said Hooper. He added that the two imams were among many traveling to the North American Imams Federation’s conference on Islamophobia in Charlotte, NC. He said another imam was similarly rejected from a flight in New York and wound up driving to the conference.


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