Aug 12, 2022 12:01 UTC
  •  Black Muslims sue Alaska Airlines for being deplaned over Arabic texts

Two Black Muslim men have filed a lawsuit against Alaska Airlines for being wrongfully deplaned from one of its flights in Washington after a fellow passenger complained about one of the men sending a text message in Arabic.

The federal lawsuit, which was made public this week, was originally filed on August 2 in the US District Court for the District of Washington by Abobakkr Dirar and Mohamed Elamin who boarded the flight in Seattle headed to San Francisco on 17 February 2020.

According to the lawsuit, the duo who were seated in their first-class seats were escorted out of the aircraft by uniformed law enforcement personnel after a co-passenger who couldn’t even speak or read Arabic complained about one of them texting and conversing in his native Arabic language.

Moments before takeoff, Dirar sent text messages and emojis to one of his friends. Their co-passenger, who couldn't read or speak Arabic, saw the text messages and complained to a flight crew member, Dirar and Elamin's lawyers said in a statement. 

An Alaska Airlines manager then asked Dirar and Elamin to deboard the plane, which was followed by extra security checks and a seizure of Dirar's cellphone, the lawsuit notes. 

After the complaint, the co-passenger decided to leave the plane, while Dirar and Elamin after getting off the plane spoke with an FBI agent who was called to the scene to translate and check their text messages and concluded that they “posed no threat.”

"Alaska Airlines' discrimination of these men not only interrupted their business trip but also caused them serious long-lasting emotional distress and immense pressure to avoid the attention of others and conduct themselves in ways which conceal their ethnic and religious identities when flying," their lawyers said. 

Dirar and Elamin were hours later rebooked on two different downgraded economy class tickets and were prohibited to fly together.

Alaska Airlines said the men were de-boarded off the plane because of a “ticket issue" while refusing to comment in detail about the case.

The issue was first publicized by the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the attorney in December 2020. They said in a statement that the lawsuit claims a federal and state violation of the men’s civil rights as paying passengers on the flight.

After two years of no action, the duo decided to take their complaint to a Federal Court alleging civil rights violations.