|image via twitter|
Youtubers Adam Saleh and Slim Albaher were removed from Delta Flight 1 departing London-Heathrow after a ‘disturbance in the cabin’, according to Delta - Saleh speaking to his mother in Arabic on the phone and to Albaher - resulting in a passenger expressing their discomfort. Saleh captured his protests against the airline as he and a friend were being escorted out and posted it to his Twitter account:
We got kicked out of a @Delta airplane because I spoke Arabic to my mom on the phone and with my friend slim... WTFFFFFFFF please spread pic.twitter.com/P5dQCE0qos— Adam Saleh (@omgAdamSaleh) 21 December 2016
The tweet garnered more than 24,000 retweets within an hour of being posted, and at the time of publishing had over 575,000 retweets.
Saleh expressed his utter disbelief at the fact that him speaking another language on a plane had made other people ‘uncomfortable’. As Saleh raises his voice in protest of the airline’s decision, some other passengers can be seen in the background, mockingly waving him goodbye, leading Saleh to call them ‘racist’. Other passengers agreed with Saleh, saying that the ordeal was ‘so upsetting’. He mentioned that the incident leading up to his removal involved ‘six white people against us bearded men’; Saleh claimed that one of these men told him to ‘shut the f*** up’.
Saleh tweeted the aftermath of the ordeal, too:
We are still stuck at the airport and Delta has not given us any info. They keep telling us to wait. Please spread the word #BoycottDelta— Adam Saleh (@omgAdamSaleh) 21 December 2016
UPDATE: Delta just brought the police to speak to us.— Adam Saleh (@omgAdamSaleh) 21 December 2016
UPDATE: were now on another flight with a different airline heading to NYC after being checked for 30 minutes. We land 5:50pm in NYC— Adam Saleh (@omgAdamSaleh) 21 December 2016
UPDATE: were taking off right now and heading to our lawyer once in NYC. Any inquiries email: firstname.lastname@example.org— Adam Saleh (@omgAdamSaleh) 21 December 2016
Delta Airlines issued a statement about the incident on their website a few hours after it happened. The airline stated that it ‘takes all allegations of discrimination seriously’ and that ‘[their] culture requires treating everyone with respect’. The statement also says that ‘more than 20 customers’ expressed their discomfort, leading to Saleh’s removal: it’s unclear whether they were referring to the Arabic speaking, or Saleh’s protests afterwards. Delta has been branded as racist and Islamophobic across social media once again.
Imagine if Emirates airline kicked someone off for speaking English. Sounds stupid right? #BoycottDelta— حیان خان (@ihayankhan) 22 December 2016
this incident shows just how powerful white privilege is & how racists accommodate their comfort by screaming "fear". #BoycottDelta— fatima (@yafatoosh) 21 December 2016
"I feel uncomfortable, he's speaking Arabic"— Adeel (@ahussaini2007) 21 December 2016
*2 hours later
"I want a henna tattoo"
"I want to visit Dubai"
"I want a kebab*#BoycottDelta
people saying "bye" to the guy as he was being kicked out make me so mad. y'all are disgusting and shouldve been kicked off #BoycottDelta— 🍒 (@vibesofjenner) 21 December 2016
This isn’t the first time that Arabic speakers have been removed from planes for arousing suspicion amongst other passengers, despite being entirely innocent of any crime; in April, an Iraqi student in California said he was escorted off of a flight for having a conversation in Arabic. In August, Faizah Shaheen, a Muslim from Leeds, was detained by UK airport police under terror laws in August, after she was spotted reading a book on Syrian culture during her honeymoon flight.
This incident raises several questions about society’s view of Muslims in English-speaking countries across the world: many Muslims are pressured to only speak English, to remove their headwear and wear non-religious clothing, and to prove they’re not terrorists, despite no evidence suggesting that they are.