By most accounts, the six bearded men were behaving suspiciously at a time when airports were on high alert for sky terror during the holidays. "There were a number of things that gave the flight crew pause," an airline spokesman said. According to witnesses and police reports, the men:
• Made anti-American statements.
• Made a scene of praying and chanting "Allah."
• Asked for seat-belt extensions even though a flight attendant thought they didn't need them.
• Refused requests by the pilot to disembark for more screening.
Also, three of the men had only one-way tickets and no checked baggage.
Police had to forcibly remove the men from the flight, whereupon they were taken into custody. A search found no weapons or explosives, and they were released to continue on their journey.
Within hours, the men enlisted a Muslim-rights group to make a stink in the press, insisting they were merely imams returning home from an Islamic conference in Minneapolis. They say they were "harassed" because of their faith.
But were they victims or provocateurs?