Dear Adam Saleh, hijacking Muslim sentiments is not funny

Published: December 22, 2016

Saleh is a video blogger and a YouTube star who attracts viewers with provocative clips. PHOTO: TWITTER

From CNN to Al Jazeera, Adam Saleh’s video has made headlines across the world.

Retweeted over 769,000 times on Twitter, the shocking footage shows him being escorted off a Delta airlines plane where he expresses outrage for getting booted. His crime, he says, was speaking a few lines of Arabic on the phone to his mother, an offense that was too much for his fellow passengers.

As expected, many online reacted with disgust.

In this volatile climate where Muslim extremists are committing horrific crimes, every day peace-loving Muslims are being targeted with acts of prejudice and violence in an increasingly right-wing leaning world. It is, therefore, natural to expect sympathies to fall with Saleh. But dig beneath the surface, and there seems to be more to this story than meets the eye.

For starters, Saleh is a video blogger and a YouTube star who attracts viewers with provocative clips.

In 2014, a video produced by Saleh and his partner went viral where he exhibited racial discrimination at the hands of a New York Police Department (NYPD) officer. It started with the duo being ignored by the officer for starting trouble while wearing western attire, and ended with the pair being frisked when wearing traditional Arabic clothing. The purpose of the video was to show bias against people of Middle Eastern origin.

The now removed description of the video said,

“We were filming another video for our channel with our cultural clothing but we kept getting followed by police. So, we decided to film this social experiment on racial profiling. Too many innocent people get stopped and frisked every day because of what they wear or their skin colour. We’re against people stereotyping others because of what they wear or what skin colour they are. Hope you all can spread the message and help bring an end to this.”

The only problem is that the video was a hoax.

Playing into Muslim victimhood, the video had been shared by the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) who later demanded an apology from Saleh.

Fast forward to February 2016 and Saleh was at it again.

In a video, titled ‘Counting down in Arabic on a plane experiment’, he tries to goad a reaction by counting down in Arabic as if he is counting down to an explosion.

This is to the annoyance of his friend and fellow passenger who is clearly as uncomfortable with the prank as we the viewers are.

Adding to the suspicion regarding this latest incident involving Saleh, are tweets by journalist Soledad O’Brien.

The whole situation reminds me of Yasmin Seweid, the 18-year-old hijab-clad Muslim girl who lied about being attacked by Trump supporters in order to escape the wrath of her strict family for being out past her curfew and created an international incident. She now faces a year in jail for carrying on with such a grave lie.

What troublemakers like Saleh and Seweid should realise is that actual peace-loving people are falling victim to anti-Muslim sentiment every day. People like Faisal and Nazia Ali were actually kicked off a Delta Airlines plane for merely ‘sweating’ and saying ‘Allah’ earlier this year in August.

Anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased alarmingly since the rhetoric from European and American politicians took a turn for bigotry. On the same day that a Muslim screamed out ‘Allah’ as he shot the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, a Tunisian Muslim asylum seeker allegedly carried off a terrorist attack in Germany, and a prayer hall in a mosque in Switzerland was shot up by a Swiss citizen of Ghanaian origin.

With every lie, pranksters like these may earn their 15 minutes of fame, but at the cost of diluting the struggle of those facing actual injustice. For every Saleh whose videos are picked up and then broken down as pranks, a real victim finds it impossible for someone to believe his story.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • aaaaa

    This is still a developing story. Nobody really knows the undisputed facts surrounding this incident. Everybody has their own version out right now. I get that it’s an easy article, but quite irresponsible in the absence of any confirmed facts surrounding this event.Recommend

  • M. S. Chaudhry

    Well done Delta. The people who compare “crying of baby” and “shouting in Arabic” as same cannot be more stupid. I am a Muslim but I would be sweating whole flight traveling along with such a person.Recommend

  • rahul patil

    Muslims like playing a victimRecommend

  • ajafarey

    Do far there’s been no statement made that’s indicative of this being a hoax, all you have done is checked the past and this piece is an assumption, not a fact. I’m not saying that’s an unfair thing to do, but your headline is clickbait material, you do not yet know whether this was a real incident or a hoax. Better yet, even if this was a prank or a social experiment, the only way this becomes a hoax is if the woman who suggested they stop speaking in Arabic was also part of his team. If not, then his prank is just a secondary issue with the primary issues being

    i. someone feeling a sense of entitlement to tell someone else what language they should be speaking in

    ii. making stereotypical assumptions based on race to pull the “uncomfortable” cardRecommend

  • Zahra

    He might be a baiter but he has proved what he wanted to show….
    White people get scared when a brown guy talks in a foreign language and especially if he is a Muslim and an Arab….
    A few people might have misused the current islamophobic sentiments for 15 min of fame…But the real issue is that Muslims and blacks are being discriminated due to their race and religion…
    Remember the issue where a black doctor was refused to treat a patient because the airhostess didnt think she might be a doctor as she was black..
    An airhostess was alarmed by a man writing strange symbols in a notepad but it turned out to be algebraic formulae.

    So this guy calls his mother in Arabic and he immediately gets escorted out..This shows how paranoid americans are…Why would a terrorist give himself up talking in Arabic if he really wants to blow up the plane?

    Stop blaming that guy and blame the fickle society Americans have created..Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Adam is a troll. A boy who cried wolf. He has been “orchestrating” those “anti-Muslim” videos himself with hired actors.
    If anything he is spreading disinformation and doing no good for the Muslim community in America.Recommend

  • Parvez

    People like Adam Saleh may in all sincerity be trying, in the best way they can, to draw attention to this particular issue. Not realizing that instead of helping he could just be hardening preconceived notions thus making things worse.
    Telling the ‘ white man ‘ he’s wrong but doing little to correct your own wrongs … is not the way to go.Recommend

  • LS

    Wow – So muslims can keep killing people around the world, not terrorists just normal people.. someone can ram a truck, shoot people, police, kill a diplomat no problem.. but even verbal abuse against a muslim is as bad as a murder? Give the world a break.

    You call the reaction to this a Bigotry and Rhetoric? Its not one or two incidences.. it has been happening for decades… on decades. People are tired of this.. islamic non-sense. It ceased to become a Bigotry and Rhetoric because Islam cannot reform itself, control itself, your lame arguments like “Action of few”, “We issued a fatwa” does not matter anymore because they have just become a show.. The actual work goes on.. “Kill as many non-muslims as you can” and muslims can’t hide behind democratic and liberal values across the nations any more.

    Since governemnts were NOT doing anything to stop it people too the matter in their own hands, people demanded action and Thus those political parties with anti-Islam, anti-immigration stance are gaining ground. It is a reaction of Muslim inaction. Your Inaction is a being treated as “implicit support” because muslims are ultimate beneficiaries of what terrorists are doing. If they topple a government and bring terrorist version of Islam to that nation.. the only beneficiary are the muslims so they remain quiet.

    What they are forgetting is muslims also turn on themselves once all minorities are decimated. Like in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan… So no its no longer bigotry or rhetoric to speak against terrorist version of islam.. That window of opportunity that muslims had to claim their so called “peaceful” religion has long closed.Recommend

  • Maryam Batool

    The writer become an investigator and a judge himself. I could not find anything that negate Saleh’s version of the story. Being a prankster does not mean that he lies all the time.Recommend

  • SuperNeo™

    Noman Ansari,
    What are Muslim sentiments can you please explain.
    you expect equal rights in non muslim countries ????

    You declare your country islamic republic but want other non muslim developed country to make room of muslims that too most of the are fake asylum seekers or illegal immigrants and greed of dollar and Euro are supreme.

    one male 3 wives 10 kids burdent non muslim tax payers again wives will only make babies contribute in increasing same faith followers numbers

    Muslim sentiments is full of Dollar ,Pound and Euro greed,,,, they some self respect they would have lives happily in muslim country instead of asking for free food and shelter in west.Recommend

  • Saqib Ali Rana

    the writer did not provide any evidence that negates adam saleh’s story, something which the headline promised.Recommend

  • ED
  • Ali S

    Anyone who is familiar with his YouTube channel or him knows that he deliberately does stuff like this to seek attention. However, as the author rightly pointed out, his point remains valid.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    So you accept his version of the events but not the complaining passengers and Delta Airlines version!
    Let’s look at the Facts:
    He is a known YouTube prankster who has allegedly posted fake videos in the past!
    Case in point the video listed above where CAIR demanded an apology from him!
    The call to “his mom” is allegedly disputed by passengers on the flight!
    The purpose of his “counting down in Arabic” video was exactly what?
    Perhaps if you were on the flight sitting close to Mr YouTube you might have a better perspective of what really happened!Recommend

  • Amer

    There was no logic in this blog…. so, there is no point in even arguing about it.Recommend

  • ab

    He put his point acrossRecommend

  • abhi

    Most of such people are just cry baby. These guys just want to play a victim card.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Adam Saleh is a professional victim and prankster. He makes fake videos on how muslims are being discriminated against in the west. He is a leech.Recommend