YouTuber Adam Saleh Claims He Was Kicked Off A Flight For Speaking Arabic

Alright, this story has a huge number of factors that need to be taken into account.

But first, the facts: a YouTuber by the name of Adam Saleh claims he was kicked off a Delta flight from London to New York for speaking Arabic.

A video he uploaded to Twitter from inside the flight has been retweeted well over half a million times. In it, Adam tells the camera: “We spoke a different language and now we’re getting kicked out. We’re getting kicked out because we spoke a different language. This is 2016. You guys are racist. I cannot believe my eyes. I spoke a word of a different language, and you feel uncomfortable? Cause I spoke a different language?”

He pans the camera across the flight, and fellow passengers look a mix of uncomfortable, pissed off and confused. Passengers near the back can be seen and heard waving “Bye!” while a passenger nearby asks Adam why he’s filming. “Because we spoke a different language,” he replies. (That same passenger later comes to Adam’s defence.)

To the camera, Adam says: “I’m about to cry right now. Six white people against us bearded men? I feel uncomfortable.” The video ends with security leading Adam and his friend off the plane.

Adam tweeted that they were eventually moved to another flight with a different airline after speaking to the police and being security checked again.

Delta Airlines confirmed that two passengers were removed from the flight and later rebooked after a disturbance in the cabin resulted in more than 20 customers expressing their discomfort.

“We take all allegations of discrimination seriously and we are gathering all of the facts before jumping to any conclusion. Our culture requires treating everyone with respect. Furthermore, Delta people are trained to and frequently handle conflicts between passengers,” it said in a statement. 

“Maintaining a safe, comfortable and orderly onboard environment is paramount for every flight and requires the cooperation of all of our customers in conjunction with adherence to directions from our crew members. This is a Delta policy and is required by U.S. regulations as well as others governing aviation worldwide.”

It also said that the airline would be speaking to the crew and other passengers as soon as the flight lands in New York.

“We have spoken with the customers who were removed; they were rebooked on another flight. Plans are in place to immediately speak with our crew and other passengers when the flight lands this afternoon. We will provide an update once we have more information.”

Okay, now comes the rest of it.

Adam Saleh has a reputation for causing controversy, something that seems to be part and parcel for YouTubers these days.

Last week, he claimed to have flown Melbourne to Sydney in a suitcase, before Tiger Airways gleefully called him out on it, using both science (“some aircraft have heated baggage holds but the aircraft you were on does not and it gets pretty cold at 36,000 feet so by the time you arrived in Sydney you would have been a popsicle”) and resources available to it (“we have footage of you boarding the aircraft using your legs”).

And his YouTube channel is full of prank videos, several of which revolve around Islamophobia, several of which involve planes. (A video as far back as 2014 involving a NYC police officer allegedly racially profiling Adam and his mate Sheikh Akbar was later revealed to be a prank.)

That being said, Islamophobia is absolutely a real thing experienced by Muslim people every day.

It’s also not the first time something like this has happened. In May this year, an American Airlines flight was delayed after a passenger believed the man sitting next to her, a University of Pennsylvania economics professor, was a terrorist.

Guide Menzio wrote on Facebook that he was removed from the plane by “some FBI looking man-in-black”

“They ask me about my neighbour,” he wrote. “I tell them I noticed nothing strange. They tell me she thought I was a terrorist because I was writing strange things on a pad of paper. I laugh. I bring them back to the plane. I showed them my math.”

In that incident, Menzio says he was treated respectfully throughout the process and allowed back on the flight.

However, a separate incident a month earlier saw an Iraqi student removed from a Southwest Airlines flight after he was overheard talking to his uncle in Arabic.

Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a senior at UC Berkeley, said he ended the phone call with “inshallah”, meaning “God willing”, but another passenger misheard him as saying “shahid”, meaning “martyr”.

He was removed from the flight and had his bag inspected, and wasn’t allowed to reboard (he had his ticket fare refunded).

“That is when I couldn’t handle it and my eyes began to water,” he told the SF Gate. “The way they searched me and the dogs, the officers, people were watching me and the humiliation made me so afraid because it brought all of these memories back to me. I escaped Iraq because of the war, because of Saddam and what he did to my father. When I got home, I just slept for a few days.”

We’ll know more about Adam Saleh’s situation when the plane lands, but either way: it’s a mess.

Photo: Twitter / Adam Saleh.