A Hassidic Jew was removed last week from a Canada Jazz flight from Montreal to New York after nervous passengers complained about the way he was praying in his seat prior to takeoff.
As the aircraft was taxiing towards the runway, several passengers noticed the man praying in his seat and alerted the flight crew of suspicious and erratic behavior. The flight attendant approached the passenger and told him that she knew he was not Muslim, but that he was causing some of the passengers to be nervous. A Canada Jazz spokesman said that the passenger did not speak English of French and the crew had no choice but to return to the gate and find an interpreter.
“The situation on the flight was tense. More than one passenger complained about him. The crew had no choice but to be considerate to the other passengers,” he said.
Once they arrived back at the gate, the passenger was escorted off and the plane took off without him. He was allowed to continue to New York on the next flight an hour and a half later.
One of the passengers on the flight spoke to the media after the incident and said that the man was not disturbing anyone and that, to his knowledge, nobody had complained. Other passengers said that he did not pray out loud, but was swaying back and forth in his seat.
Jewish leaders in Montreal called the incident insensitive and said the flight attendant should have explained to passengers that the man was simply praying and not harming anyone. Sources in the Jewish Community called the decision racist and the B’nei Brith organization of Canada offered to arrange a course in religious tolerance to airline employees.