FLYING WHILE BROWN

Atif Irfan, a Muslim American and a tax lawyer, was removed from the plane on New Year’s Day, along with eight family members and a friend, after paranoid passengers misunderstood their benign conversation regarding the safest place to sit onboard.

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Atif Irfan, a Muslim American and a tax lawyer, was removed from the plane on New Year’s Day, along with eight family members and a friend, after paranoid passengers misunderstood their benign conversation regarding the safest place to sit onboard. An FBI agent entered shortly thereafter, escorted the family off the plane, and questioned Irfan over the incident. Even though the FBI cleared the group of any suspicious behaviour, the airline then refused to rebook the American Muslim family on another flight. “The FBI agents actually cleared our names,” Inayet Sahin, Irfan’s sister-in-law, said later. “They went on our behalf and spoke to the airlines and said, ‘There is no suspicious activity here. They are clear. Please let them get on a flight so they can go on their vacation,’ and (AirTran) still refused.” AirTran later apologised. For many Muslim, Middle Eastern, and Arab Americans, this episode highlights the increasing frustration and discrimination experienced when “FWB”: Flying while brown. In another widely publicised case in November 2006, six respected imams were unconstitutionally arrested and kicked off an US Airways plane after a fellow passenger complained about their violent, horrifically suspicious activity of pre-flight prayers.