Early this morning, Adam Saleh, a 23-year-old YouTube star, posted a video to Twitter of himself and his friend allegedly being kicked off of a Delta flight for speaking Arabic, writing “We got kicked out of a @Delta airplane because I spoke Arabic to my mom on the phone and with my friend slim…WTFFFFFFFF please spread.”
“We spoke a different language on the plane, and now we’re getting kicked out,” Saleh says into the camera at the start of the video, standing in the aisle of a plane, with an uncomfortable-looking blonde flight attendant standing behind him, a walkie-talkie visible in her hand.
“This is 2016,” he continues. “I cannot believe it. I spoke a word of a different language and you feel uncomfortable? […] I’m about to cry right now.” As of this writing, the video has been shared over 600,000 times, sparking a massive Twitter thread under the hashtag #boycottDelta.
Skepticism has emerged over the video’s legitimacy, as Saleh is known for “prank” videos. He recently claimed to have shipped himself on an international flight in a suitcase via Tigerair Australia until the airline called him out, saying they had footage of him boarding the plane. He also produced a viral video showing anti-Muslim harassment on the streets of New York, which he later admitted was fake. Saleh’s manager told BuzzFeed News that the video of him getting kicked off the Delta flight, however, is “as real as it gets,” pointing out that Saleh has always revealed his pranks as such.
The video shows a plane full of passengers, some awkwardly looking away and pretending not to notice the scene and others enthusiastically waving and saying “bye” as the men are escorted off of the plane.
While there’s a chance that today’s video was staged to make a point, there’s as good a chance these two men really were kicked off a commercial flight for “speaking a different language.” Unfortunately, it’s easy to believe the latter in today’s Islamophobic climate. And if we’re even questioning the legitmacy of such a video, the real conversation shouldn’t focus on the morality of using pranks to make big political statements. Instead, the conversation needs to shift to the fact that we might be living in a reality where people can be so uncomfortable sitting on a plane near two Arabic speakers, an airline would happily force them off.