Arabic YouTube star's Delta Airlines racism claim loses credibility

Saleh and his friend were removed from the cabin after a 'disturbance' (Getty)
Saleh and his friend were removed from the cabin after a 'disturbance' (Getty)

Passengers on the same Delta Airlines flight as a prominent Muslim social media personality who claims he was kicked off for speaking Arabic say there was more to it than he let on in his video.

Adam Saleh sent the internet into a frenzy on Thursday (NZ time) when he posted a video of him and a friend being escorted from the plane, earning more than 800,000 retweets and 700,000 likes on Twitter.

He said passengers had become uncomfortable because he "spoke a different language" to his mother on his mobile phone, asserting that it was another example of "white people against us bearded men".

But it now seems as though Mr Saleh was not simply speaking Arabic on the phone and to his friend as he insinuated, with a number of passengers saying he was actually yelling Arabic phrases at passengers with his fist raised.

"He stood up and started shouting with his fist up in the air, shouting something in Arabic for no reason, and sat down," a witness told ABC News.

"A few minutes passed and then he was up again, doing it again. He did it three times until eventually people said 'no, no, not happy with this'."

Another passenger told ABC that people were crying because they felt so awkward and uncomfortable.

A Reddit user posted about his experience on the plane and substantiated it with a photo of his boarding pass. His girlfriend later took to Facebook to explain his version of events.

A statement posted by Delta Airlines on its website backs up the witnesses' claims.

"Based on the information collected to date, it appears the customers who were removed sought to disrupt the cabin with provocative behaviour, including shouting. This type of conduct is not welcome on any Delta flight," it said.

"While one, according to media reports, is a known prankster who was video recorded and encouraged by his traveling companion, what is paramount to Delta is the safety and comfort of our passengers and employees. It is clear these individuals sought to violate that priority."

Mr Saleh has not responded to any claims by witnesses, and says "the media is twisting up [his] words".

Mr Saleh has produced a number of videos designed to bring attention to racist behaviour on his highly popular YouTube profile.

He has also made several recordings that test whether Arabic clothing and language provokes a discriminatory response from other passengers on plane journeys.

This is not the first time Delta Airlines has been accused of racism.

In October, an Afican-American doctor was stopped from giving medical care to a passenger because the flight attendant doubted her credentials.