Here is what happened according to Kirit Radia and Jason Ryan of ABC news.
During the flight, the diplomat allegedly went to the bathroom about 40 minutes before landing for a surreptitious smoke, an act that is against federal law. When flight attendants saw smoke coming from the bathroom, they alerted air marshalls who asked Al-Madadi what he was doing.
Al-Madadi allegedly made the off-handed comment to the officials he was trying to light his shoes on fire, at which point the air marshalls detained him and alerted authorities on the ground.
The diplomat here violated two things. First it was a federal offense to smoke on the airplane. And then the seemingly harmless joke which is now also prohibited because of the terrorism scare.
Now this article is in no way insinuating that Mohammed Al-Madadi is a terrorist. He is innocent until proven otherwise. But for a diplomat you are now wary of where his true sympathies really are?
Why such a joke? Is it because he is frustrated that Muslims or Arab looking men are always suspected this way even though it was the smoke that alerted the authorities? Or does he have even just a bit of sympathy to radical Muslims?
What is dangerous here is he is about to visit an alleged AL-Qaeda member at that! It has been reported that in certain prisons wherein Al-Qaeda is held, they get instruction materials through their lawyers. With such an insensitive comment, why wouldn't one suspect what the true motives of this Qatari diplomat will be?
There is probably no evidence to imprison this Qatari diplomat. But I think with such a a suspicious psychological profile, I don't think it is right for him to meet this Al-Qaeda man. Trust has been broken because of this incident so he must be shipped. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the CIA decides to make some covert operations to spy on this diplomat.