Attorney General Warns Against Discrimination

            Utah State Attorney General's Office

             For Immediate Release

             Date: September 27, 2001

             For more information, contact Paul Murphy at (801) 538-1892


            Attorney General Mark Shurtleff issued a letter to Northwest Airlines today concerning alleged civil rights violations of three passengers of Middle Eastern descent. Shurtleff is requesting to meet with Northwest representatives to discuss why the airline refused to let three Utah residents board their plane.

             Kareem Alasady, his younger brother Akram Alasady, and friend Raheem Alinani were flying from Philadelphia back to their homes in Salt Lake City on September 20. They say they were prevented from boarding the second leg of their trip on Northwest Flight 673 in Minneapolis.

             The men say they went through all of the required safety checks and even answered questions from FBI agents at the airport. They say a Northwest representative stopped them from taking their ticketed flight because the crew and other passengers refused to get on the plane with the three men.

             "We understand these are fearful times. But we can not let fear become an excuse to discriminate," said Shurtleff. "We are all still reeling from these terrorist attacks. But this is a time for unity and we can not let the terrorists change the way we treat each other."

             The Utah Civil Rights Act passed in 1965 makes it illegal to discriminate "on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, or national origin in business establishments or places of public accommodation or in enterprises regulated by the state."

             The Act also requires the Attorney General to investigate and to attempt to seek reconciliation between businesses and citizens who believe their civil rights have been violated.

             "Businesses can take safety precautions but they can not treat customers differently because of their race or religion," said Shurtleff. He hopes this will serve as a warning to other companies.

             "I agree with the President that the enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists. We need to bring these terrorists to justice. We also need to do everything we can to protect the rights of all of our citizens."

             The Attorney General is talking with the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Transportation and other attorneys general to address concerns about other people of Middle Eastern descent being denied access to commercial airplanes.