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Imams Sue Airlines

The New York Times reported that six Muslim men removed from a plane last fall after being accused of suspicious behavior are suing the airline and the passengers who complained. The Associated Press reported that some fear this move could discourage others from speaking up if they see something unusual. The civil rights lawsuit that has been filed this month has alarmed some lawyers so much that they are offering to defend the passengers without charge. They said it is vital that the public is able to report any suspicious behavior without the fear of being taken to court. The six men were all imams and were taken off a Phoenix-bound US Airways flight on Nov. 20. They were returning home froma conference of Islamic clerics in Minneapolis. Passengers said they became nervous when the men were seen praying and chanting in Arabic. Some passengers also said the men mentioned Saddam Hussein and cursed the United States. Also, that they requested seat belt extenders and than stowed them under their seats. New York lawyer, Omar Mohammedi, said the intent is not to go after passengers who raise valid concerns, but that these passengers may have acted out of prejudice.

The Post Chronicle reported that the imans are suing US Airways and "John Doe" passengers for allegedly making false reports "with the intent to discriminate against them." The Muslim clerics had reportedly been making a scene in the terminal and on the plane. Their attorney says that they had only been performing prayers and were singled out because of their religion. The Times said that critics of the lawsuit contend that the freedom to practice one's religion at any time or any place is not absolute when it comes to government interests, such as preventing terrorism.