Abobakkr Dirar and Mohamed Elamin are suing Alaska Airlines for denying their rights as passengers by “exploiting the discredited Islamophobic, racist, and xenophobic claim” of another person on the flight, per a lawsuit filed on Tuesday (August 2) in federal court.
According to the lawsuit, Elamin and Dirar, Sudan-born American citizens, were seated in first-class on a domestic flight in February 2020 when another passenger became upset after seeing one of them text in Arabic, the language they predominately speak.
The Arabic text conversation was merely "friendly banter" between one of the men and another person who was not aboard the flight, the lawsuit says.
Lawyers for Dirar and Elamin are accusing Alaska Airlines employees of engaging in "security theater" by kicking them off for speaking in Arabic to each other and texting in their predominant language.
The men were also forced to fly separately on different Alaska Airlines flights and arrived hours late to their destination, according to the suit.
Alaska Airlines said in a statement regarding the pending litigation, “We take such complaints very seriously. Our greatest responsibility is to ensure that our flight operations are safe — every day.”
Luis Segura, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is representing the men, said Dirar and Elamin are traumatized by the incident.
“They take long drives instead of flying,” Segura said. “You can hear in their voices now when you speak to them that it was traumatic for them. What they want is to be heard.”
The two men are seeking unspecified monetary damages and requesting the airline be required to provide racial and religious bias training to its employees.