Social media personality Adam Saleh accused Delta Air Lines on Wednesday of forcibly removing him and a friend from a New York-bound flight for speaking to his mother on the phone in Arabic.
The 23-year-old American-Yemeni YouTube star sent out a series of tweets and live video as the incident unfolded at Heathrow Airport.
Saleh can also be seen on a video asking staff why they were removing him and his travelling companion, Slim Albaher, from the plane. Saleh said later that he was being questioned by police.
Saleh told ABC News he was speaking to his mother on the phone, in Arabic, when a woman told a Delta crew member she felt unsafe.
Delta said it was “gathering all of the facts before jumping to any conclusion.”
In a statement, posted on Delta's website, the airline said they would be conducting a review of the incident.
“Two customers were removed from this flight and later rebooked after a disturbance in the cabin resulted in more than 20 customers expressing their discomfort,” the statement read.
“We’re conducting a full review to understand what transpired. We are taking allegations of discrimination very seriously; our culture requires treating others with respect.”
Saleh confirmed that he was booked on a later flight. “UPDATE: were now on another flight with a different airline heading to NYC after being checked for 30 minutes. We land 5:50pm in NYC,” he tweeted.
“I can’t believe my eyes,” says Saleh in the video, “it’s 2016 and we are being kicked off the plane because we spoke a different language. You people are racist.”
Saleh, who has a loyal following of more than three million across his social media channels, where he chronicles his experiences as a Muslim in the United States, creates and broadcasts social experiments and performs songs and comedy sketches to combat Islamophobia.
Speaking to The National in September, Saleh discussed some of the challenges and discrimination his family faced growing up as Muslims in the US.
“All the media going around giving Islam a bad name makes it difficult for Middle Eastern kids growing up in America. I went through it a lot, especially because my mum wore a hijab. So I went through a lot of racist stuff,” he recalled.
“There was this one time a classmate met my mother for the first time and realised that I was a Muslim. He asked me why she wore the hijab, and when we were walking home, he pulled it and no one was around to help. That was the first time that I had seen such a thing up-close – I was heartbroken. It wasn’t until that moment that I felt that it was hard for us.