Pilot Won't Fly with Muslims; Yemeni Man Bangs on Cockpit Door


Tensions are high following the death of Osama Bin Laden amid the possibility that terrorists could strike back in revenge for his killing. Nowhere is that tension higher than on airplanes, as evidenced by several incidents over the weekend.

In the most dramatic scene, passengers had to subdue a Yemeni man who started banging on the cockpit door aboard an American Airlines flight Sunday night.

According to a report in the New York Daily News, 28-year-old Rageig Almurisi was flying from New York to San Francisco (with a stop in Chicago) when he approached the cockpit door about 30 minutes before landing.

San Francisco police Sgt. Michael Rodriguez told the newspaper that the flight attendant thought he was going to the first class bathroom. Instead, he "grabbed" the cockpit door and started banging. Fortunately the door only opens from the inside.

"The flight attendant put hands on him to spin him around, and the passenger started resisting. It was described as violent resistance. The flight attendant started asking for help, and it basically took four males to subdue him and get the flexible handcuffs on him," Rodriguez said.

Two of those passengers had law enforcement backgrounds.

Almurisi was carrying a Yemeni passport and a California state ID. He could face federal charges of interfering with a flight crew.

Also Sunday, a Continental flight to Chicago was diverted to St. Louis after a passenger tried to open a door, and a Delta Airlines flight was diverted to Albuquerque after a note was found in a bathroom with the word "bomb" written on it. The plane was searched and no explosives were found.

A different type of incident on Friday -- two Muslims wearing traditional garb were ordered off a flight in Memphis because the pilot refused to fly with them on board.

The Associated Press reports the two men were cleared to fly on the Delta Connection flight, and the plane had left the gate when the pilot turned back. The men were told to return to the boarding gate, where one of them said they were told the pilot did not want to fly with them because it might make other passengers uncomfortable.

Both men are Islamic religious leaders -- Masudur Rahman is an adjunct instructor of Arabic at the University of Memphis, and Mohamed Zaghloul is with the Islamic Association of Greater Memphis.

Rahman said Delta officials talked with the pilot for more than a half-hour, but he still refused.

Transportation Security Administration spokesman Jon Allen confirmed the incident and said it was not initiated by that agency.

Both men were taken to a lounge and booked on a later flight.

"It's racism and bias because of our religion and appearance and because of misinformation about our religion." Rahman said. "If they understood Islam, they wouldn't do this."


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