I have always maintained that if you are living in fear, then the worst thing that can happen to you has already happened. Anticipation of an event is almost always worse than the actual event itself.
Add to this the generally very bad ability of humans to judge risk (we almost always judge it too low or too high) and you get the situation we had on Friday. Two Islamic scholars were on their way from Memphis to Charlotte were pulled off of a plane when the pilot refused to fly with them on board.
In fact the plane had pushed back from the gate and then the pilot decided that he was too scared to fly with two men who were in traditional Middle Eastern dress aboard his aircraft. The plane went back to the gate and Professor Masudur Rahman and Imam Mohamed Zaghloul were taken off and re-screened there at the gate. Delta, the airline, cleared them to fly and they were in the process of boarding when they were informed that the pilot would absolutely not fly with them aboard. At that point Delta capitulated and let the plane leave without the Islamic scholars aboard.
Now think about this for a minute. These two men had been through the entire TSA screening that everyone else gets when they fly these days. They had shown ID, had their carry on bags screened and gone through the magnetometer. They then got on the plane, and it pushed back from the gate. It went back to the gate and they were screened again. At this point the pilot still would not allow them on the plane.
This is what the irrational fear that has been stoked by the Right and people like Rep. Peter King (Douche-Bag, NY) has come to. This pilot saw two men who were dressed in what he could identify as Arab clothes. Because of this single fact he decided that it was too big a risk to have them on his plane. Slice it anyway you like, that is bigotry plain and simple. He has no idea who these men are but because they are swarthy and they dress in a way that is not common here he felt so endangered that he had to boot them off the flight.
There was (and still is) a big problem with “driving while black” where black men are pulled over in nice cars or even not so nice cars by the police, out of racist suspicion. It seems that flying while Muslim is the new driving while black.
And lets be clear, this does not happen everywhere, but places like Tennessee and Memphis, in what you would call the Red states it is a lot more common. The last time I went home to Michigan, I was flying out of Detroit Metro Airport. As I going through security there was a party of one man and three women. The women were in the full chador and you could only see their eyes.
They went through security without a hitch, showing their faces to a female TSA agent to check their ID and they walked through the metal detector like everyone else. I would not have known all this, but they were right in front of me and I was interested to see if they had a different procedure. They actually flew on my plane back to Denver and if there was anyone who was nervous about having Muslims on the plane, I did not see or hear them. The pilot sure did not have a problem.
And why should there be a problem anyway? Frankly I am not going to be worried about anyone in traditional Muslim clothes. None of the attempted airline bombers wore Muslim clothes, and none ever will. They don’t want to attract attention to themselves.
As little as I care about what people want to wear, I do look when I see men or women in robes. It is out of the ordinary and so you notice. Just like you notice if someone is in a wheelchair or is wearing the worlds ugliest Hawaiian shirt. Being different in your clothes does not make you a potential terrorist, it should be a tip off that you are not.
Delta has apologized to the Imam and Professor and it is hoped that they were able to fly to their conference on Islamophobia by a pilot who was not so knee-jerk bigoted. While the airline did apologize it also issued a statement that said
“”returned to the gate to allow for additional screening of a passenger and the passenger’s companion. We take security and safety very seriously, and the event is currently under investigation”
It is a good thing that an investigation is underway, the actions of the pilot had nothing to do with safety and everything to do with bigotry. It is unfortunate that they added the part about taking security seriously, since this was not a security issue.
I have very little hope that the pilot will be reprimanded or that we will hear about this incident again. But this is not the first time it has happened and it probably will not be the last. In 2006 six Imams were removed from a flight because the passengers were nervous.
Why were they nervous? Well, again the clothes that the Imams were wearing and the fact that all six said their evening prayers there in the waiting area where all the little Midwestern bigots could see them and get freaked out.
This case was just recently settled for an undisclosed amount. US Airways and the Imams agreed to keep it confidencial but the Imams say they feel vindicated by the settlement. Lets hope Professor Rahman and Imam Zaghloul also go to court. It is only by making the cost of this kind of bigotry too high that we will get the airlines to do the right than and remove a pilot that refuses to fly overly screened passengers and not the other way around.
What is on your minds tonight Firedogs? The floor is yours.