The news of Adam Saleh's removal from a Delta Airlines flight this morning spread fast after he posted a video of the incident to Twitter. Saleh alleged that the airline's employees kicked him off the flight after other passengers heard him speaking Arabic on the phone. In response to the incident, Delta issued the following statement:
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. 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.
Despite only having occurred a few hours ago, Twitter users are already expressing their outrage and calling for a boycott of Delta airlines. Many, too, are wondering who is Adam Saleh and how did his story gain so much traction so fast? Delta officials and the passengers seen in the video, who taunted Saleh by waving goodbye as he was escorted off the flight, may not have known who he was. But in fact, Saleh is a YouTube star with over 1.6 million subscribers and more than 265,000 Twitter followers. His YouTube channel focuses primarily on pranks and Arab and Muslim culture.
Some of Saleh's most popular videos explore ignorance toward and discrimination against Arabs and Muslims in the United States. In one video posted to his channel over a year ago, Saleh films as his friend, Slim, goes through airport security twice, first in a hoodie and jeans and again in desi attire. As the video shows, only when Slim is wearing desi attire does airport security pat him down and subject him to advanced screening. In another video posted earlier this year, Saleh explores how bystanders react to witnessing Islamophobia by pulling a hijab off of his collaborating friend's head in public places.
Many of Saleh's other videos are more lighthearted. For example, his most popular, one posted in 2013 that has racked up over 16 million views, features him and his friends being rejected by strangers until they show off their red Ferrari. However, his more serious videos on xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racial profiling are now taking on new weight as news of his removal from the Delta airlines flight spreads.
Delta has been in the news for racial profiling before. And now that they have turned Saleh and his many new and old followers against them, the airline company may have to take a firmer stance against racial discrimination on their flights.