A Muslim YouTube star who made a hoax video in 2014 showing an NYPD officer stopping him for stop-and-frisk because he was wearing traditional Muslim garb is claiming Delta Airlines booted him off a flight from London to New York because he was speaking on his phone to his mother in Arabic.
Adam Saleh, 23, posted multiple videos to Twitter and Periscope that showed Delta flight attendants escorting him off the plane. Saleh claimed passengers “felt uncomfortable” and called flight attendants because he was speaking Arabic.
Slim Albaher, Saleh’s friend and fellow YouTube personality, was also escorted off the plane. Saleh complained, “They kicked us off the plane because a lady, because a lot of people felt uncomfortable. Delta Air Lines just kicked us out for speaking Arabic.”
Saleh told the Guardian, “Usually before I take off I speak to my mom. My mom is 66 years old and she only speaks Arabic, so I was speaking to her in Arabic – it was a 30-second phone call.”
Saleh claimed that he continued by speaking to Albaher in Arabic and English, adding, “this lady that was sitting maybe four seats ahead of us turns around and says: ‘Oh my, you need to speak English, I’m feeling very uncomfortable.’” He stated that an older man the woman was traveling with snapped, “Chuck them of the f-ing plane!” prompting other men to call the captain. Saleh said the woman told the captain: “We feel uncomfortable – something happened in Germany. If they don’t leave, I leave."
According to Saleh, the captain then asked to speak to him and Albaher outside. That was when Saleh started shooting videos. One featured him claiming the flight attendants told him and Albaher they were “too loud.” He added, “All the racist people in there, they were like: ‘We feel uncomfortable,’ but because there were like 20 of those racist people, the captain came and he kicked us out. I’m not letting this slide … They were screaming at us like we were terrorists.”
Delta released a statement saying “two customers” had been removed from a flight and later rebooked after “a disturbance in the cabin resulted in more than 20 customers expressing their discomfort … We’re conducting a full review to understand what transpired. We are taking allegations of discrimination very seriously; our culture requires treating others with respect.”
London’s Metropolitan police reported they were summoned to Heathrow airport around 11 a.m., “after two passengers were removed from a plane by crew at Heathrow Airport. Officers attended and the passengers were escorted to the terminal where they were assisted with making alternative travel arrangements. They were not arrested and no offenses were disclosed.”
According to reporter Soledad O’Brien, Saleh’s story may not be entirely true:
Mediate reported, “O’Brien’s source told her that the Delta flight attendants were made aware that Saleh was a YouTube prankster.”
A recent video by Saleh appeared to show him traveling from Melbourne to Sydney inside a suitcase, but the Guardian reported. “The airline later said that Saleh had sat in a regular seat on the flight and that travelling via the baggage section would have been impossible.”
As The Huffington Post reported in 2014, Adam Saleh and Sheikh Akbar admitted their viral video purporting to show Islamophobia on New York’s streets was staged. They wrote, “This video is a Dramatization of previous events that occurred with us in our tradition clothing while filming in NYC. This video is not against the NYPD, it’s just an example of what we have to go through sometimes when filming in NYC. This is to raise awareness for Racial Profiling.”
The video was titled “Racial Profiling Experiment.” It showed the two men wearing jeans and T-shirts, arguing near a police officer on a street corner. Nothing happened, but later they walked by him wearing keffiyeh scarves and traditional long shirts; the officer forced them against a wall and searched them for weapons.
The original description of the video, in a cached version of the page, read:
We were filming another video for our channel with our cultural clothing but we kept getting followed by Police. So, we decided to film this social experiment on racial profiling. Too many innocent people get stopped and frisked every day because of what they wear or their skin color. We’re against people stereotyping others because of what they wear or what skin color they are. Hope you all can spread the message and help bring an end to this.
The video was tweeted by the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations as an example of discrimination against Muslims. CAIR later demanded an apology from Saleh and Akbar. But as HuffPo reported, “CAIR-New York’s director of operations, Sadyia Khalique, told HuffPost that regardless of its authenticity, the video illustrates the very real discrimination that Muslims in New York often face at the hands of the NYPD.”