Two U.S. Muslim men wearing traditional clothing were removed from an airplane on Friday after the pilot refused to fly them even though they had cleared security.
The incident occurred at the airport in the southern city of Memphis, Tennessee, as the two Muslims were set to fly to a conference on prejudice against Muslims in the southern city of Charlotte, North Carolina. The pilot on the regional air carrier Atlantic Southeast Airlines had started to taxi away from the gate when he changed his mind and returned to the terminal.
One of the Muslims, Masudur Rahman, a professor of Arabic at the University of Memphis, said the unidentified pilot told him that "I'm not going to take you." Rahman quoted the pilot as saying that some passengers "might be upset or uncomfortable" if he and the other Muslim, Mohamed Zaghloul, were on the flight.
The U.S. government agency that handles airport security (the Transportation Security Administration) confirmed the men were removed by the airline. The agency said it had screened the Muslims and they were cleared to fly.
Atlantic Southeast operates flights for a much larger U.S. carrier, Delta Air Lines. After the men were taken off the flight, Atlantic Southeast apologized to them and said it was investigating the incident. The men were offered compensation and Delta transferred them to another flight.