Popular YouTuber Adam Saleh alleges that he and his friend, Slim Albaher, were thrown off a Delta Airlines flight from London to New York after fellow passengers voiced their discomfort with him speaking Arabic.
Saleh captured the aftermath of the incident in a video he posted to Facebook, showing he and his friend leaving the plane and the reactions of various passengers, some looking confused and worried, others gleefully waving him off the plane.
In an email statement sent by his management team to Carbonated, Saleh asserted, "I was speaking to my mom on the phone like I always do before getting on a flight. I call her before I take off and when I land so that she knows I am safe and well. I was speaking in Arabic when a female passenger began shouting that they felt uncomfortable. This encouraged almost 10 other passengers to agree and shout the same thing. We were kicked off the flight while those passengers mocked us. We are currently getting ready to get onto another flight with another Airline. I will keep everyone updated with the situation through social media! I appreciate everyone’s support and effort in raising awareness on this!"
Saleh described to CBSN how a few passengers defended him and his friend, but ultimately 20 other passengers agreed that they were uncomfortable, with one man shouting at him. Saleh claimed that they referenced the terror attack in Germany to justify their racism. Saleh stated that the captain then removed them from the plane under the pretense of speaking with them outside.
CBSN reports that Morgan Durrant, a Delta spokesperson, has responded to the incident, saying, "Two customers were removed from Delta flight 1 departing London-Heathrow today 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," said Durrant. "We are taking allegations of discrimination very seriously; our culture requires treating others with respect."
Many are questioning the veracity of Saleh's story due to his history of pulling pranks on airplanes. Saleh once claimed that he traveled on a flight hidden in a suitcase, which was later proven to be a hoax. He also pulled a prank in which he counted down in Arabic on a plane, which is in pretty bad taste no matter what language you're speaking and visibly made other passengers uncomfortable.
Due to his track record, some think he may have provoked a response from his fellow passengers on the Delta flight and fabricated a story of discrimination. Many are affiliated with conservative values like those that President-elect Donald Trump displayed during his election campaign.
Fact: not all Muslims are terrorists, but nearly all terrorists are Muslim. #BoycottDelta— Tennessee GOP (@TEN_GOP) December 21, 2016
Despite his record of telling tall tales, many more people do believe that he was a victim of Islamophobia. Twitter blew up with the hashtag "BoycottDelta," condemning the discrimination Saleh says he faced on the flight.
It shouldn't matter if you're a YouTube star/prankster, if you're telling me you've been discriminated, then I'm believing you #BoycottDelta— Kevin Maxwell (@kevin_maxwell) December 21, 2016
The fact Adam makes prank videos does not mean this is a prank, get your head out of you asses and do something about this #BoycottDelta— Adam Saleh Updates (@SalehUpdates) December 21, 2016
Being drunk, abusive and arrogant is not enough to get kicked off a plane. But Being smart enough to speak 2 languages is? #BoycottDelta— Benny (@Beno_ldn) December 21, 2016
Delta Airlines needs to make "RACISM" a restricted carry-on item. #BoycottDelta— NUFF$AID (@nuffsaidNY) December 21, 2016
Adam has since responded to the people who doubt him in a statement on Twitter.
Thank you for all your support pic.twitter.com/ukQ4EGVQ6r— Adam Saleh (@omgAdamSaleh) December 22, 2016
We have seen so many instances of discrimination against Muslims unfold on airplanes since the terror attack of Sept 11. Anti-Muslim bigotry in the U.S. has seen a steep, 6 percent rise since 2015 as politicians call for such barbaric laws as Muslim bans and Muslim registries.
As the investigation unfolds, we undoubtedly recognize a kernel of truth in Saleh's story; that these things are definitely happening to Muslims, Arabs, and Arabic-speaking people all the time. If this isn't another one of his airplane pranks, Delta should make a full apology and instate a new policy: Throw the intolerant bigots off the plane instead.
That would make us all a lot more comfortable.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Screen grab from Facebook user Adam Saleh