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Muslim woman sues Southwest Airlines after being taken off flight

October 5, 2011 |  9:21 pm

A Muslim woman from San Diego is suing Southwest Airlines after being taken off a flight in March when crew members deemed her behavior suspicious.

Irum Abbasi, who was wearing a hijab, the Islamic head scarf, was seated on a flight preparing to depart from San Diego's Lindbergh Field for San Jose when a flight attendant became concerned about something she thought Abbasi had said on her cellphone.

Abbasi later said that she told someone on her cellphone, "I have to go," but that the attendant thought she had said, "It's a go."

Abbasi was escorted off the plane by an employee of the Transportation Security Administration.

A U.S. citizen, Abbasi has lived in the United States for a decade after emigrating from Pakistan. She was taking a flight to San Jose, where she is a graduate student at San Jose State.

The lawsuit, filed on her behalf by the Council on American-Islamic Relations-California and noted San Diego civil liberties attorney James McElroy, charges the airline with discrimination.

Three days after the March 13 incident, the airline apologized and noted that Abbasi was seated on the next flight to San Jose and given a travel voucher.

"We sincerely apologize for the customer's inconvenience," the airline said in its public apology.

McElroy and representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations have scheduled a news conference Thursday outside the terminal at Lindbergh Field to discuss the lawsuit.


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-- Tony Perry in San Diego 

Photo: Irum Abbasi

Credit: Council on American-Islamic Relations