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Air Marshals Decry “Political Correctness Probe”

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Federal air marshals and pilots are sounding a warning about the true agenda of those imams ejected from a plane for suspicious behavior: Marshals decry imams’ charges.

Air marshals, pilots and security officials yesterday expressed concern that airline passengers and crews will be reluctant to report suspicious behavior aboard for fear of being called “racists,” after several Muslim imams made that charge in a press conference Monday at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Six imams, or Muslim holy men, accused a US Airways flight crew of inappropriately evicting them from a flight last week in Minneapolis after several passengers said the imams tried to intimidate them by loudly praying and moving around the airplane. The imams urged Congress to enact laws to prohibit ethnic and religious “profiling.”

Federal air marshals and others yesterday urged passengers to remain vigilant to threats.

“The crew and passengers act as our additional eyes and ears on every flight,” said a federal air marshal in Las Vegas, who asked that his name not be used. “If [crew and passengers] are afraid of reporting suspicious individuals out of fear of being labeled a racist or bigot, then terrorists will certainly use those fears to their advantage in future aviation attacks.”

But Rabiah Ahmed, spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said Muslims “have to walk around on eggshells in public just because we don’t want to be misconstrued as suspicious. You have to strike a balance between legitimate fears which people may have, but not allow passengers to have so much discretion that they can trigger a process that would violate a traveler’s basic civil rights.”

“Because one person misunderstood the actions of other law-abiding citizens, they were able to trigger a very long and daunting process for other travelers that were pulled off the plane in handcuffs and detained for many hours before they were cleared.”

The imams say they were removed from the Phoenix-bound flight because they were praying quietly in the concourse. They had been in Minnesota for a conference sponsored by the North American Imams Federation.

But other passengers told police and aviation security officials a different version of the incident. They said suspicious behavior of the imams led to their eviction from the flight. The imams, they said, tested the forbearance of the passengers and flight crew in what the air marshal called a “[political correctness] probe.”

“The political correctness needs to be left at the boarding gate,” the marshal said. “Instilling politically correct fears into the minds of airline passengers is nothing less than psychological terrorism.

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