Muslims, Sikh file $11m lawsuit over plane eviction

By AFP
Published: January 22, 2016
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PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK: Three New York Muslims and a Sikh have filed an $11 million federal lawsuit demanding a jury trial for being kicked off a flight home from Canada because of their appearance.

The US citizens of South Asian and Arab descent are suing American Airlines and its regional partner Republic Airlines, claiming they suffered discrimination, financial injury, humiliation, mental pain and suffering.

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The student and three professionals of Bengali, Syrian and Punjabi descent, all in their 20s, say they were ordered to disembark American Airlines flight 44718 from Toronto to New York on December 8 simply because of their looks.

The 18-page lawsuit accuses the defendants of “malicious,” “wanton” and “callous” behaviour that “showed reckless disregard” for the men’s civil rights when the four friends were returning from birthday celebrations in Canada.

Faimul Alam, 25, manages his father’s construction business, Shan Anand, 25, works as a personal banker and creates software applications and W H, 23, is a pharmacy student who owns his own clothing line.

The fourth petitioner, who was identified as M K, 29, also manages his father’s construction company.

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The friends were getting the same flight home, on which W H and M K each paid $70 to upgrade to business class.

But after boarding, a stewardess demanded in a hostile manner that all four men exit the plane without questioning why, the lawsuit alleged.

“W H was dramatically woken up by a stewardess who hurriedly demanded he exit the aircraft. Having been asleep, W H thought there was an emergency and that all passengers were exiting,” the court document said.

“Passengers surrounding Alam and Anand made bigoted and racist comments and held their children and belongings close to their person as if something was going to happen,” it added.

An airline official informed them the captain and crew “felt uneasy and uncomfortable with their presence on the flight” and refused to take off unless they were ejected from the plane.

“Plaintiffs inquired whether it was due to their physical appearance being that they are dark skinned and had beards. The agent stared in response and stated that their appearance ‘did not help’,” the lawsuit said.

The men were permitted to board the next flight to New York, but were not permitted to sit in business class.

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The lawsuit seeks $1 million compensation each from American Airlines, Republic Airlines, Envoy Air and American Eagle, and $5 million in punitive damages — totalling $11 million, a member of staff at the Aboushi Law Firm told AFP.

American Airlines declined to comment.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim civil liberties group in the United States, says the country has seen an unprecedented spike in anti-Muslim hate crime in recent months.

“Reports of these kind of incidents seem to have increased in the same period we have seen a rise in anti-Muslim bigotry in our society and a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes,” spokesperson Ibrahim Hooper told AFP.

“That generally began with the Paris terror attacks and sustained during the San Bernardino shootings and Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric,” he added.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • M
    Jan 22, 2016 - 3:57PM

    This sounds absolutely terrible! The airline’s management and staff needs proper training or maybe some proper firing from their jobs.Recommend

  • Jan 22, 2016 - 4:22PM

    lately Eldad Gatt, an Israeli citizen filed a discrimination complaint against Kuwait airways and they had to pay in terms of comprising their connecting flights. hopfuly the same way muslims and sikhs get justice tooRecommend

  • Pakistan Zindabad
    Jan 22, 2016 - 4:31PM

    And still they are called Broad minded, technically high-fi, and Developed nation.Recommend

  • I am a Khan
    Jan 22, 2016 - 5:03PM

    if these men win their claim…of $11million, then they will not need to work for life! party all the the time :)Recommend

  • Point
    Jan 22, 2016 - 8:06PM

    You are not to decide what kind of justice they want. The want the justice an American citizen can get. Kuwait airways policy remains same to every type of person the same way. American Airline shall do what it does to any typical passenger facing such kinda discrimination. Recommend

  • Jan 22, 2016 - 8:58PM

    This may not the fully story. The real background of this episode to be revealed to public.Recommend

  • Shakil Ahmed Khan
    Jan 23, 2016 - 2:30AM

    So my comments about USA to come out clean with open policy and ban visa applications for Asian and Muslims was too much to publish in comments?Recommend

  • Kolsat
    Jan 23, 2016 - 3:06AM

    @Pakistan Zindabad: This happened because generally speaking white Americans are uninformed and badlt educated that is why know nothing about peoples of other nations. Soon after the 9/11 attack many Sikhs were beaten up in US because they were taken to be Muslims. These Sikhs have lived in the US for years yet these white Americans did not know they belonged to another religion. I travelled in the US a month after 9/11 and was singled out for security check because my name did not sound English or European. Therefore I am not surprised at the treatment received by these 4. I am glad they are suing the airline. Hope the succeed.Recommend

  • Pakistan Zindabad
    Jan 23, 2016 - 2:05PM

    @Kolsat: Sadly more then half of my immediately family live in US. They accept the discrimination they receive but DOLLAR$ are DOLLAR.Recommend

  • Jan 23, 2016 - 10:40PM

    Why this nonsense comments without knowing the version of the second party. There should be valid reasons including the safety of other passengers.Recommend

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