Six Muslim imams who were forcibily removed from a US Airways flight last year and are now suing the airline for discrimination may also be suing some passengers who were aboard the flight.
In the lawsuit filed last week, the imams say that unnamed "John Doe" passengers at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport reported that they engaged in "suspicious" behavior — praying in the terminal — before they boarded the plane on Nov. 20.
Omar Mohammedi, the imams' New York-based lawyer, said that the imams have not yet decided whether to pursue this complaint, but if they do it would affect only those passengers who were prejudiced in their suspicions.
"I think there is a difference between someone reporting suspicious activity and someone making false reports about a fact that did not exist," Mohammedi said. "We are not saying that people should not report; we are saying people should not abuse that process just because someone was praying or someone looked religious."
He said that if the passengers were suspicious based only on the imams' appearance, "then they should be liable . . . these people should be careful not to abuse the process and be responsible. "
The lawsuit alleges that US Airways unlawfully removed the six imams from Flight 300 for discriminatory reasons based on race, religion, ethnicity, or other outside appearances when they tried to board a flight to Phoenix after attending a North American Imams Federation conference.
The lawsuit says US Airways has "falsely claimed" the imams' "suspicious" behavior, including saying "God is Great" in Arabic on the plane, talking about President Bush and Iraq and purchased one-way tickets with cash. Passengers also reported that some of the imams asked for seat belt extenders and switched seats.
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