Since September 11, 2001, the unlawful profiling of airline passengers on the basis of race or religion has become disturbingly common. Within the past six months alone, eleven racial and religious profiling incidents have been reported, including five since April 1, 2016. Muslim Advocates and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) have formally requested that the United States Department of Transportation take action to address the profiling of Muslims, people of color, and persons perceived to be either by U.S. airlines.
Passengers have recently been removed from flights for, among other reasons, speaking Arabic, completing a math equation, or “staring at” a flight attendant. In each case, police and airline officials eventually concluded that the individuals posed no threat to the airline or its passengers.
These incidents and countless others not only violate federal law, but also send a message to victims that they are second-class passengers. Muslims and people of color – like all other law-abiding travelers – should be able to travel for any purpose without being discriminated against because of their appearance or personal religious beliefs.
The Department of Transportation has the authority to enforce federal law prohibiting air carriers from discriminating against passengers on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex or ancestry. Accordingly, Muslim Advocates and LDF urge the Department to take immediate action to enforce federal anti-discrimination prohibitions. In particular, they request that the Department:
- Fully investigate and publicly report on investigation findings regarding all alleged instances of racial and religious profiling involving Muslim passengers;
- Require any air carrier found to have profiled passengers on the basis of their race or religion to take appropriate remedial action;
- Implement regulations requiring airline personnel to undergo discrimination training; and
- Track and publish monthly summaries of the discrimination complaints filed against U.S. airlines and subsequent actions taken by the Department in response.
To read the entire letter, click here.