ADC to represent Arab-American travelers in discrimination case against Southwest Airlines

Pizza Arabs

Washington, DC | | November 24, 2015 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has been retained to provide legal representation to two Arab-Americans who recently experienced discrimination while traveling on Southwest Airlines.

Southwest Airlines prevented the travelers, Maher Khalil and Anas Ayyad, from boarding their flight out of Chicago last Wednesday.  The discrimination occurred because another passenger heard them speaking Arabic, and then reported to the airline that he felt uncomfortable with them being on the plane.  The two men called police to report the incident. After intervention by law enforcement, the two men were finally allowed to board their flight.

Both Khalil and Ayyad are U.S. citizens. Khalil owns a pizza shop near Philly calledPizza Point. “We came to America to have a better life,” Khalil explained to the Associated Press on Friday. “Everybody in America is from different countries. I’m one of them. I’m an American citizen…I felt like we’re not safe no more in this country. Because I’m Arab, I cannot ride the airplane? The person who complained is the one who should be kicked out, not me.”

This case is part of a larger trend of discrimination against Arab-Americans following the tragic attacks in Paris, France.  ADC has also received complaints from Arab-Americans who have been discriminated against while attempting to travel on American, Allegiant, Delta, Spirit, and United airlines.

ADC is also concerned that in response to the Paris attacks, passengers have been asked to report anyone who “looks suspicious” while traveling on common carriers, including airlines, railroads, buses, etc. The practical effect of this request is to encourage racial profiling, as passengers typically report people who fit the stereotype of what they think a terrorist looks and sounds like. Unlike law enforcement, passengers have not completed training in diversity and cultural competency in order to know how to distinguish between behavior that is dangerous and behavior that is common to an ethnic group that is different from theirs, such as simply speaking another language.

ADC Legal Director Abed Ayoub stated, “We are very troubled by this recent incident and the overall uptick in anti-Arab sentiment and Islamophobia.  ADC stands ready to help victims of discrimination, as we have been doing for the past three decades.”

If you have experienced discrimination or harassment while traveling, please click here to report the incident to ADC’s Legal Department. 

Background Articles:

Community Advisory:

ADC reminds community members to exercise caution and vigilance. Please take your safety seriously when you receive threats of violence to yourself or your relatives.

  •  If you are placed in physical danger because of your ethnicity, religion or national origin: Call the police (dial 911 in most communities), and/or click here to contact your local FBI office. It is the FBI’s job to investigate hate-motivated crimes and specific threats of violence. You can also report a hate crime to the FBI online using this form.
  • Ensure that any place of worship you attend is prepared with an emergency plan that can be implemented should the need arise. Also, be familiar with all the exits to your place of worship, in case the building is attacked.
  • For those attending religious services, contact your local law enforcement officials and ask for protection if you feel threatened. It is advisable to find out whether your place of worship has an open line of communication with law enforcement. If there is no line of communication, it is advised that one be established.
  • If you have a child who is in school, and you are concerned about bullying, take a moment to speak to your child about any issues he or she may face. Also, share any concerns you have about bullying with the school administration.
  • Ensure that your children are aware that they can report any incidents of bullying or harassment to a school official or other adult. Work with your children’s school to implement an anti-discriminatory policy, if a satisfactory one is not already in place.
  • If you or your child is a victim of online “cyber” bullying, please address the matter by following the steps outlined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which can be found here.
  • If you feel you have been a victim of a hate crime, of if any individual or place of worship needs any assistance with any of the above, including dealing with law enforcement, please contact the ADC Legal Department at202-244-2990 or
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