A YouTube star known for pranks and hoaxing says he was removed from a Delta Air Lines flight after speaking Arabic.
In a series of tweets and videos, Adam Saleh described the incident on Delta Flight 1 from London Heathrow Airport to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.
“We got kicked out of a @Delta airplane because I spoke Arabic to my mom on the phone,” Saleh wrote.
Traveling with friend Slim Albaher, also a YouTube personality, Saleh started videotaping from the plane as workers approached them. “We spoke a different language and now we’re getting kicked out.” Some passengers waved and shouted “bye” from their seats. In one tweet, Saleh called for a boycott of Delta.
Delta said Wednesday that two customers were removed from the flight and later rebooked “after a disturbance in the cabin resulted in more than 20 customers expressing their discomfort.”
“We’re conducting a full review to understand what transpired. We are taking allegations of discrimination very seriously,” Delta said in written statement.
It’s yet to be seen how the incident fits in with the prank videos Saleh is known for.
Saleh later tweeted that he was “on another flight with a different airline heading to NYC after being checked for 30 minutes.”
Past incidents of Muslims being removed from flights have generated debate over security and discrimination.
“The issue of airline profiling of Muslims and those perceived to be Muslims is of great concern to us,” said Council on American-Islamic Relations spokesman Ibrahim Hooper. “There have been fairly regular reports of airline profiling to our offices around the country…. We just aren’t sure at this point if this incident is representative of that phenomenon.”
Indeed, some expressed skepticism about the incident in comments on social media and elsewhere. Saleh’s videos on YouTube depict various pranks and “experiments.”
Two years ago, Saleh apologized for a “re-enactment” of Islamophobia and racial profiling in a video, which triggered media coverage and reactions by some who took it was a real incident.
In response to the Delta disturbance, Hooper said: “Quite frankly, based on the past history of the individual reporting, we just want to make sure we have the facts straight before we make any individual judgment.”
The incident sparked renewed discussion on security and racial discrimination.
“There are legitimate fears that people have about their own personal safety,” Hooper said. “But they should react to those fears not with stereotyping and prejudice, but with actions that actually make people more secure. And kicking someone off a flight allegedly because they spoke another language is not the way to go.”
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