Leveraging airline fear

(UPDATE: Fun comment string)
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6 Imams Removed From Flight for Behavior Deemed Suspicious

Six Muslim religious leaders were taken off a US Airways flight in Minneapolis on Monday evening and detained for several hours after some passengers and crew members complained of behavior they deemed suspicious, including prayers at the gate.

The incident prompted the Council on American-Islamic Relations and officials for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Washington to call Tuesday for Congressional hearings on racial profiling and an investigation by the Justice Department and the Transportation Security Administration.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Islamic advocacy group, said this was hardly the first time Muslims had encountered problems with stereotyping by the airline. “We seem to have received more complaints against US Airways” than other carriers, Mr. Awad said in an interview. Those complaints have come from Muslim employees and passengers alike, he said.

Morgan Durrant, a US Airways spokesman, said the airline was investigating the episode. But he said the crew had acted in accordance with the company’s policy for removing passengers, though he declined to give specifics on the policy.

The six men detained, all imams, had attended a Minneapolis conference of the North American Imams Federation. They were handcuffed by the police and led off the flight, bound for Phoenix, after reports from passengers and crew members of “unsettling” behavior, according to a police report. One passenger had slipped a note to a flight attendant that began, “6 suspicious Arabic men on plane,” the report said.

So the gist is, with nothing more than a scribble on a scrap of paper, one dude was able to deny SIX others the chance to fly. Think about that the next time you are in the airport and some drunken frat boys are in line behind you or some jerk spills a drink on you in the airport bar or some adult with unruly, loud, disobedient children (or a colicky baby!)  have the temerity to sit by you.   Just pass the stewardess a note with your concerns over their suspicious behavior and voilá! Problem solved!

And if this whole thing offends you, think about this: the best way to punish the airlines for this kind of racist bullshit is to ruthlessly exploit it in your own favor, as frivolously and often as possible. Airplanes can't fly with empty planes and if everyone starts pointing at everyone else, they'll be forced to take a different tack.

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14 thoughts on “Leveraging airline fear

  1. actually, it stated that the crew and passengers were suspicious, not only one dude. and i would much rather the crew take suspicions seriously, then laugh them off. many times flights have been grounded over lesser things. flying is a privilege, a convenience and we've come to think it's some sort of right to fly without discomfort or bother. but when it comes to making sure that people will be safe, that there won't be any suicidal/homicidal maniacs on board, i'm completely willing to forgo my flight. the reason islamists are targeted is because they pose the highest threat. you may feel that's bigoted, but this stereotyping saves lives and saves people from being hurt.
    what's more important, saving feelings from being hurt or people?

  2. actually, it stated that the crew and passengers were suspicious, "behavior
    they deemed suspicious, including prayers at the gate" so Muslim
    prayers are "suspicious" now. Well, that's bullshit, plain and simple.
    And it was ONE DUDE who passed the note.and i would much rather the crew take suspicions seriously, then laugh them off.That's because you are afraid. You
    happily give up your liberty in exchange for a little bit of perceived
    safety. You think an actual terrorist is going to call attention to
    himself by praying loudly and publicly? You think these men really are
    a threat after they've been examined through security? Even when, as
    you know, they're going to be under increased scrutiny at the gate? You
    think it is justified that, even after five hours of interrogation
    after being pulled off a flight, it is still fair for the airline to
    deny them permission to fly because they were "involved in a security
    incident" ? flying is a privilege, a convenience and we've come to think it's some sort of right to fly without discomfort or bother.That
    assertion is no where in my post. You're making a straw man argument.
    I never said flying is a right because it is not. However, I do think
    it is a right to not be discriminated against solely on the basis of
    your skin color or religion, and I'm fairly sure the law is on my side
    of this particular argument. I realize it doesn't bother you because
    you aren't brown or a Muslim, but try for a little empathy. The vast, vast majority of Muslims really are
    not all that different from you or me.but
    when it comes to making sure that people will be safe, that there won't
    be any suicidal/homicidal maniacs on board, i'm completely willing to
    forgo my flight.The safety procedures at the
    airport can be summed up in one word: placebo. They are in place to
    make white people like you and me feel better, but they don't actually
    do shit to make you safer. Do you honestly believe the practice of
    taking nail clippers away from old women in wheel chairs is going to
    make you safe? If they had pulled off the guy who passed the
    note in addition to the Imams, then I wouldn't have as much of a
    problem with the situation. But as it stands now, any nervous white
    person can clear off all the brown people off a plane and they don't
    have to suffer any consequences. I think that's wrong. the
    reason islamists are targeted is because they pose the highest threat.
    you may feel that's bigoted, but this stereotyping saves lives and
    saves people from being hurt.Who told you that
    "islamists" are the greatest threat? Do you know how many domestic
    terrorists we have had in this country in the past 50 years? Where are
    you getting your information? And besides, who said these men are islamists? The story says they are Islamic imams, the word "islamist" is nowhhere in the story. Unless you are saying that all Muslims are also Islamists. Is that what you're saying? As
    for targeting certain people for closer scrutiny: I do not believe it's
    fair (or even smart) to target brown people with arabic sounding names
    when not also giving close scrutiny to:- any person who at one time served in the military (see Tim McVeigh) – any member of a Christian Fundamentalist Church (see Eric Rudolph) – anyone from Montana (see Theodore Kaczynski) – any nurses (see Sara Jane Moore) See
    how this profiling starts to look ridiculous when you really start
    applying it across the board to any "group" with bad apples? I
    really don't think you've thought this through. Instead of getting all
    mad from my response, maybe you should pour yourself a cup of tea and
    sit down and really think all these things through. Maybe question some
    of your assumptions. what's more important, saving feelings from being hurt or people?That's a needless trivialization of a very real abuse of someone's rights and makes me think unpleasant thoughts of you. :-(

  3. Whoa. Timmy your posts always bring the fun. Only someone white and blonde could equate blatant racism with a simple case of hurt feelings. I know I'm stereotyping, but since her comment advocated we should all do that, I barely even feel bad about it.

  4. Jenny:Whoa. Timmy your posts always bring the fun. Oh, jeez, Jenny. Am I getting a reputation as The VOX bitch? Only someone white and blonde could equate blatant racism with a simple
    case of hurt feelings. I know I'm stereotyping, but since her comment
    advocated we should all do that, I barely even feel bad about it.Well,
    I would accuse you of stereotyping but here we are: White chick
    advocating we kick all the Muslims off the plane. Nice! I couldn't ask
    for a better example of the "fear" mentality that's taken over this
    country. Didn't we used to be fearless? The can-do Americans? In one
    generation we've gone from the people that put a man on the moon to the
    nation scared of nail clippers.Schomer: It is possible to be struck by lightning while singing the Star Spangled Banner while riding naked on the back of an elephant with lit sparklers stuck stuck in your hair and a barbie doll stuck halfway up your ass.

  5. Um, cute non-response. I guess you are unable to answer the question, or you really do believe it's racism if a non-white is taken off a plane after bothering others.Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying these guys deserved to be given the boot. I'm just trying to understand when/if you think it's racism. I guess you think it's racism if it's a non-white person, and that's all you need to know?BTW, where did you see anyone say all muslims should be kicked off a plane? I'm not able to find that in the above comments.

  6. Um, cute non-response. I guess you are unable to answer the question,
    or you really do believe it's racism if a non-white is taken off a
    plane after bothering others.[Sigh] I don't believe it's necessarily racism when a non-white person is booted off a plane. And to answer your original question, it is certainly possible to remove a non-white person from a plane without it being an act of racism. You and I can engage in what-if games all day long, trying to figure out when and what would be fair and what isn't (not that it matters since neither of us have any say in the procedures of the TSA). However, I'm sure you would agree that this case is a pretty clear demonstration of ignorance of Islam resulting in fear and the people involved reacting to that fear, rather than reacting to any actual element of danger. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying
    these guys deserved to be given the boot. I'm just trying to understand
    when/if you think it's racism. I guess you think it's racism if it's a
    non-white person, and that's all you need to know?You've said you agree that these guys shouldn't have been given the boot. We are in agreement. I'm really not interested in setting up a system of rules the TSA should follow so that everyone is treated fairly or to ensure that only real threats to safety are the reason by which people are denied permission to fly. As I said, it's a useless endeavor. As I said in a previous comment, the primary purpose of the safety procedures at the airport are to foster a sense of safety. Actual safety is secondary.

  7. timmy,
    i appreciate the opportunity to discuss the merits/non-merits of racial/cultural profiling on your blog. glad you opened this one up. i'll try to respond to your criticisms honestly and thoroughly.
    first, you stated that i'm afraid. yes, you're right, i am afraid. but i'm not necessarily afraid of what you think i'm afraid of. i'm terribly concerned that americans will go back to feeling safe after what happened on 9/11. thinking that our military actions in afghanistan and iraq will ensure our future safety. that whatever group wanted us to take notice on 9/11 has now been obliterated or frightened into submission. that we no longer have to worry about those 'radical extremists'. and because of that safe feeling, we won't pay attention to the feelings inside that say 'something isn't right, here', because we don't want to be accused of racism or profiling. and don't confuse stupidity with fear. we have to protect ourselves and our country from people who will do anything to destroy it. if you aren't afraid of real terrorism, you just haven't experienced it.
    i grew up believing most of the world was similar to america, that most places spoke in different languages, ate different cuisines and celebrated different holidays, but that deep down inside we wanted to coexist and respect life, similarly. it's only learning, as an adult, that there are parts of the world that do not respect life and freedom the way we do here. and those people that feel that way will do anything to try to abolish our way of life, including killing themselves to terrorize us. when you have people that do not value their own life on earth, how can you expect them to value or respect your life, or your laws, cultures or religions. how can you reason with them?
    these people aren't only one race or even one religion or culture. in fact, i think many presently in america may be american-born, probably caucasian. and if more whites were found conspiring and attempting terrorism on planes, i would be saying profile whites. you are missing the point, just because someone is "brown" (as you so eloquently put it) doesn't mean we *shouldn't* consider them a threat. i think the best system would be to profile along with random selection for security screening. if security went out of their way to make sure every group didn't feel stereotyped or discriminated, unfairly, and were barely screened because of it there would be a huge gap for terrorists to glide through. unless someone's civil rights were violated, i do think it's a case of hurt feelings and at most, xenophobia.
    for some reason, being a 'white chick' makes any statement about race, from my mouth, racist. that's ridiculous. as a woman, i've been discriminated against, i understand what it feels like to be treated unfairly. but most of that just hurts peoples' feelings. if the imams flew on a later flight and were unfortunately inconvenienced, for the guarantee that the flight would have no terrorists on board, i think the airline did the right thing.
    in almost every business in america there is a disclaimer of service that states they may refuse service to customers. that was the case in this situation. after reading the article, it seems you left out parts you deemed either unimportant or contrary to your argument and you changed other facts stated. you say they were interrogated for five hours, but only one of the six states he was questioned for less than half an hour. the article states they were *detained* for five hours, not beaten or threatened, or even interviewed for five hours. you left out items such as the flight crew overhearing the religious leaders making anti-american statements and that they were requesting seat belt extensions which the crew did not think necessary as none were overweight. these factors made people suspicious. would it have been better to keep those thoughts to themselves instead of appearing rasicts to some people?
    and when you talk about the security, you contradict yourself. first, you say that because they are "brown", they will be doubly checked at security, already, and nothing should be getting through there. (just out of curiosity, how do you know they are brown, how do you know their skin color?) but then you say that security is a joke, that all they do is take away nail clippers from old ladies in wheelchairs. so which one do you believe? if it is a joke, then maybe terrorists could get to a gate and prepare for their jihad, uttering prayers beforehand. is that so unbelievable? is that something you would want to take a chance with. what if you were on that plane, with your mom, your significant other or your babies. maybe you felt something wasn't right and you said something to a crew member. maybe the crew felt something was amiss, independently.
    if every time some white guy got nervous, airlines didn't board "brown" people, there would be a lot more incidents like this. and a lot of airlines losing money. i wonder what you would have posted had the flight crew not profiled and the "one dude" hadn't given a note and the men were terrorists and hijacked that plane. i guess you would be saying how terribly colorblind we are as a nation, and how proud we should all be about it.

  8. I'm hesitant to even wade into this again. My apologies to Timmy in advance.
    It states in the article the men were Arab. That's how Timmy knows their skin color.
    It also states in the article that although their fare was refunded, they were not allowed to fly on US Airways the next day and had to book passage on another carrier. To me, that's more than merely being inconvienced. If they were found to not be a threat, US Airways should have allowed them to fly.
    Being a victim of institutionalized racism causes more than hurt feelings. Dismissing it as such is part of the problem. I myself have never been a victim of it. I have had a good friend who was detained for suspicion of shoplifting based solely on the color of her skin. She wasn't acting suspicious. She was shopping in a Macy's. Browsing like anyone else. My own husband has been detained for questioning by an airline so long that he missed his connecting flight. He wasn't praying at the gate or making anti-American sentiments. He was just trying to get home to his wife and kid.
    It's demeaning and demoralizing. Inconvenience is the least of it. This is not an isolated incident. This is just the one that made the headlines. Things like this happen every day.
    I doubt you've ever been taken into police custody just for being a woman, but if you have, by all means please let me know and I'll revise my opinion of you.

  9. Jenny,
    Thanks for jumping in. Actually, I went to get clarity on what race Arabs are, from what I would consider a great online resource, Wikipedia.org. Here's what it says about Arab's:
    Race: While the term “Arab” does not refer to a particular race, the majority of Arabs are categorized as Caucasians or “white” as the term is used in the United States.[citation needed] According to the U.S. census bureau, white is defined to include people with ancestral origins in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. The Middle East and North Africa also has people who are black. Although these people refer to themselves as Arabs they are not considered White as their ancestral origins are not from Europe, the Middle East or North Africa. Examples of Arabs who are not White are Sudanese Arabs who are considered black Africans.

    That doesn't appear to clear up any skin color questions for me, personally, how about for you?
    I'm sorry to hear that your husband was detained and missed his flight and that one time your friend was questioned about shoplifting. It seems to me that not all incidents where someone who appears to be non-white is questioned have to do with that person's ethnicity/appearance. Also, many whites are questioned in cases where they are not guilty, is that racism, too? Can racism only involve non-whites? I sense a lot of hostility, but it all seems to be about emotions, not facts. Were someone's rights violated? If so, which rights?
    If there was a case where a woman was the prime suspect of a kidnapping and she had blonde hair and I was hauled in to the station and questioned, I wouldn't be surprised because I would fit the profile of the suspect. It wouldn't anger me that they were only questioning blonde women. Things like questioning and detaining innocent people DO happen everyday, but that's okay, because that's the process by which police and airport security get information to find the true criminals. It may seem to be an intrusion on your schedule or a violation, but when compared to the world's safety, it's a small price to pay.

  10. It seems to me that not all incidents where someone who appears to be non-white is questioned have to do with that person's ethnicity/appearance.
    That's correct, not ALL incidents where a non-white is questioned have to do with ethnicty/appearance, but SOME incidents do. In the two incidents I provided, yes, I do believe their rights were violated. Their right to be unmolested by the police while abiding the law. Your kidnapping example hardly compares to my friend shopping in a store, unless you in fact believe all shoplifters are black. Maybe you do. You seem very unwilling to acknowledge that racism even exsists. If you can't do that, than I see no point in continuing the discussion.

  11. My dear, Thank you for your comments. I can't respond to
    everything because that would require pages and would likely put
    everyone to sleep. So I'll just hit the one point I really think is
    pertinent. (and, just so you know, I'm writing this from work and
    we've just had our Friday cocktails—I'm laboring under the influence
    of some particularly good tequila) i
    grew up believing most of the world was similar to america, that most
    places spoke in different languages, ate different cuisines and
    celebrated different holidays, but that deep down inside we wanted to
    coexist and respect life, similarly. it's only learning, as an adult,
    that there are parts of the world that do not respect life and freedom
    the way we do here. and those people that feel that way will do
    anything to try to abolish our way of life, including killing
    themselves to terrorize us. when you have people that do not value
    their own life on earth, how can you expect them to value or respect
    your life, or your laws, cultures or religions. how can you reason with
    them?This
    reads to me like an extension (or derivation) of the "they hate us for
    our freedom" argument. If you really buy that ridiculous line of
    propaganda, then I'm afraid you may be so divorced from reality that I
    doubt you would benefit from anything I write. But I'll give it a try.Reader's digest version: They
    don't hate us for our freedom. If they hated freedom, they would target
    Amsterdam, the citizens of which enjoy far, far more freedom than you
    or me. We were attacked on 9-11 not because of our freedom, but
    because of American boots on Islamic holy ground Osama bin Laden's
    stated reason for carrying out the attack. We have bases in Saudi
    Arabia. We have American soldiers in Islamic holy land. This drives to
    insanity many an Arab. I'm
    not saying we deserved 9-11. I am saying, to quote my 9th grade history
    teacher: "history does not happen in a vacuum. People do things for a
    reason." There was a reason fifteen well-educated, middle-class Saudis
    and four well-educated, middle-class Afghanis gave their lives to give us a collective
    bloody nose on 9-11. From your post, I get the impression that your sense of
    history begins on 9-11. I would answer that 9-11 was in response to
    that which came before, like every historical event throughout the
    history of mankind.The
    way to make us safe is not through increased security or taking away
    our liberties or erasing the very thing that makes this country what it
    is—our (dwindling) freedoms. The way to make us safe is by not making
    us a target. The way to make us not a target is to not do things on
    the world stage that makes us a target. Things like, among the many
    many examples: overthrowing democratically elected leaders, propping up
    our own, CIA-educated, School of the Americas
    graduated dictators in their place; Things like building bases in
    areas where we have no business being. Things that make our government
    hated throughout the globe. Those things and many, many others. Bad things. Ugly things.
    Evil things. Our
    current approach to security is like trying to ensure we cannot be
    stung by any hornets while we bang the hornet's nest with a stick. My
    ideal approach to security, were I king of the world, would be to not
    fuck with the hornet's nest in the first place. FUCK that hornet's
    nest. Leave it the FUCK ALONE.

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