Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I Understand Security Concerns, But Treatment of Imams Inexcusable

Nothing exacerbates a person's suppressed xenophobic anxiety like stepping on an airplane. While terrorists hail from all races, nations, and faiths, those who take their terror to the skies tend to be Muslims from the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia. Fear of sharing a flight with people who pray to Allah in Arabic is responsible for the recent incident involving six imams being removed from a US Airways flight in Minneapolis.

I don't want to get into the matter of racial (or ethnic or religious) profiling, because that subject has been discussed ad nauseum on blogs that are much more widely read than this one. But I will say this: I can't imagine how I'd feel if my fellow airline passengers saw me praying and immediately assumed that I was planning to kill them. Sure, I'm oversimplifying the situation, but just a little bit.

Even if one can justify removing these Muslim clerics from the plane, I don't think anyone can justify US Airways' decision not to sell the men replacement tickets. The six men had gone through standard airport security and had been subject to bomb-sniffing dogs and interrogation by U.S. Marshals. After all that, there should have been no question that the imams were not a security threat. US Airways should have apologized and gone out of their way to get the men home to Phoenix. If their flights from Minneapolis to Phoenix have first-class seating, US Airways should have given the men first-class tickets.


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