Two Muslim religious leaders were asked to leave a commercial plane in Memphis and were told it was because the pilot refused to fly with them aboard.
The two men had been on the way to a conference on Islamophobia on Friday.
Masudur Rahman, a professor of Arabic at the University of Memphis, and Mohamed Zaghloul, Imam at the Islamic Association of Greater Memphis, were asked to deplane Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight 5452 from Memphis to Charlotte. Mr Rahman said they were subjected to additional security checks after the plane had left the gate.
After additional screening, the two men were cleared by Delta representatives to reboard the plane, but were then told the pilot would not take them.
Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a regional partner operating as a Delta Connection, apologised for any inconvenience caused, but offered no further explanation.
The flight “returned to the gate to allow for additional screening of a passenger and the passenger’s companion. We take security and safety very seriously, and the event is currently under investigation,” an airline statement said.
“People are losing freedom,” Mr Rahman said of the incident. Mr Rahman and Mr Zaghloul arrived nine hours late to the conference.
5:02PM BST 08 May 2011
Source: The Telegraph