New York - Four men who were kicked of an American Airlines flight because they allegedly “looked too Muslim” have filed a $9 million lawsuit against the airline over racial profiling and discrimination.
New York – Four men who were kicked of an American Airlines flight because they allegedly “looked too Muslim” have filed a $9 million lawsuit against the airline over racial profiling and discrimination.
The three Muslim and one Sikh passengers, all U.S. citizens from New York, were removed from a Toronto-New York flight last December, according to the lawsuit filed on Monday at the Brooklyn Federal Court.
All four men are in their 20s, three are of South Asian descent and one is an Arab. They were all sitting near the front of the aircraft when a flight attendant demanded them to exit the plane before takeoff.
According to the lawsuit, the men claim they did not know why they were thrown out until they were told at the terminal that their presence made the pilot “uneasy” and the fact that they are “dark skinned and had beards, did not help.”
The lawsuit said the men claim that American Airlines “disgracefully engaged in discrimination based upon their perceived race, color, ethnicity, alienage and/or national origin”.
They defendants are suing for a total of US $9 million, $1 million each in compensatory damages, and $5 million in punitive damages.
The men have been identified as W.H., M.K.; Faimul Alam, Bangladeshi Muslim; and Shan Annand, a Sikh from India.
According to New York Daily News, W.H., a fashion designer, said in a phone interview that the airline “basically made me feel like a criminal.”
“It was like I was put on a pedestal where everyone is pointing at you. I was frightened that they were frightened,” W.H. said.
“I thought it was an evacuation or something, so I didn’t think nothing of it, but then she told me to take my bags, and when I went back into the plane I saw I was the only one standing,” he added.
The four men were reportedly allowed to board the next flight to reach their destination. W.H. said he was urged by the captain of the flight that took them home to denounce the alleged discrimination.
“The captain told me we shouldn’t let this pass over. It’s not right, it’s discriminating. He said, if I was you, I wouldn’t let this go,” W.H. said according to CNN News.
“You see these kinds of things happen, but you don’t really get it until it happens to you. We don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” the victim added.
One of the other men, Shan Anand said, “Seeing a mother holding her child closer to her, looking at you in fear…those stares stay in your head.”
“When I was coming off the plane, I kept thinking, ‘What did we do?’ But it was just because we looked a certain way,” Anand claimed.
Tahanie Aboushi, the lawyer who represents them said that the flight attendants told them to exit “peacefully” implying that they were a “threat” to other passengers onboard.
The four friends were traveling with two others, a Hispanic and a Pakistani, who were seated at the back of the plane but were not asked to leave.
The American Airlines flight was operated by Republic Airways. The airline has declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said they are in the process of reviewing it.