RNA - Every so often, a Muslim is removed from a flight because the person posed an imaginary threat that had more to do with Islamophobia than terrorism, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says.
CAIR says recent terror attacks and the debate over immigration during this year’s presidential campaign have contributed to a sharp increase in the number of such “flying while Muslim” bias incidents this year.
The civil rights organization’s attorneys then file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation, asking for an investigation and potential sanctions against the airline.
But in many cases, nothing happens, CAIR attorneys say. Passengers remain in the dark about how the DOT’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings conducted its review, what the agency found, or whether any sanction was imposed against the airline. It’s as if the complaints never existed, CAIR attorneys say.
“Our organization has had a long history of dealing with these sort of travel issues, basically since our inception. The problem is, however. . . that there are no real remedies for people,” said Phil Robertson, litigation director at CAIR’s Chicago office. “It falls into a black hole.”
About all the complainant receives is a form letter acknowledging that their complaint has been filed, Robertson said.
“It sits there for a long, long time,” Robertson said in an interview following a recent incident of alleged bias. “And if you finally get a response, it’s often no response.”
Robertson and other CAIR attorneys believe the federal government is unwilling or unable to be tougher on the airlines. Federal law gives captains and flight crews authority to remove an airline passenger if they have a reasonable belief that the person poses a safety risk, and court rulings have backed them up.
The airline industry, as you might expect, sees things differently. The task of their flight crews is to ensure that people get where they are going safely – which means being highly attuned to risks such as terrorism — while also treating everyone fairly.