Attorney for imams, who were pulled off plane, seeks 'accountability'

The Charlotte ObserverMay 9, 2011 

The lawyer for two Muslim clergy removed from a flight to Charlotte because the pilot allegedly would not fly with them on board said Sunday he'll seek "accountability" from the airlines "to assure this does not happen again."

"It was pure discrimination based on appearance," said Charlotte attorney Mo Idlibi, whose clients - wearing traditional Muslim garb - eventually made it to Charlotte on a later flight. "What happened runs completely counter to all of our fundamental principles here in the United States."

Idlibi would not say whether a lawsuit is in the offing, only that he'll push for compensation, disciplinary action against the pilot and training for pilots.

Ironically, Imams Masudur Rahman and Mohamed Zaghloul boarded the initial Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight in Memphis to come to Charlotte for a conference on "Islamophobia," or fear of Islam.

On Sunday, the 150 imams meeting at the Holiday Inn-Airport didn't have to look hard to find examples of alleged discrimination against members of their faith.

One of the speakers - Imam Al-Amin Latif, an African-American born in Anderson, S.C. - said he had to drive down from New York after being told, twice, by American Airlines that it wouldn't let him fly to Charlotte.

Also in the conference room Sunday was Imam Ossama Bahloul. His efforts to build a bigger Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., brought headline-making opposition - including vandalism, hate-filled graffiti and a court case charging that Islam is not a religion but a violent cult.

But Exhibit A at the eighth annual conference of the North American Imams Federation was what happened Friday with Rahman, a professor of Arabic at the University of Memphis, and Zaghloul.

Both were at the conference Sunday.

"I was humiliated and felt so bad that others would look down on us," said Zaghloul, who is originally from Egypt.

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