Is Flying While Muslim the New Driving While Black?
“I ’m afraid that ‘Flying While Muslim’ is the new ‘Driving While Black.’ These things will keep happening until the ‘white male passenger’ types decide that unfair treatment of minorities must stop.”
This is part of this comment posted by Raleighlaura, who is a reader of Point Me to the Plane and was responding to this article pertaining to two Muslim women who were supposedly “kicked off” of an airplane which operated as American Airlines flight 2239 from Miami to Washington, D.C. because a member of the flight crew felt “unsafe” traveling with them, causing the flight to be delayed for several hours — and that is one of only several unfortunate incidents which have occurred this past week.
“A flight crew member had complained to the pilot that she was uncomfortable with the Muslim couple in the second row of economy class”, according to this article written by Mark Curnutte for The Cincinnati Enquirer pertaining to a Muslim couple who felt humiliated after being removed from an airplane operated by Delta Air Lines. “The woman was wearing a head scarf and using a phone, and the man was sweating, she allegedly told the pilot.”
Reading a book pertaining to Syria is apparently what caused Faizah Shaheen — who works for the National Health Service in the United Kingdom to prevent teenage mental health patients from becoming radicalized and was returning from her honeymoon in Turkey — to be detained and questioned for at least 15 minutes under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 after a member of the flight crew aboard an airplane operated by Thomson Airways reported her for “suspicious behaviour”, according to this article written by Liam O’Hare and Ted Jeory for Independent.
Is Flying While Muslim the New Driving While Black?
“Police abuse against people of color is a legacy of African American enslavement, repression, and legal inequality”, according to this special report written by David A. Harris of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Indeed, during hearings of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (‘The Kerner Commission’) in the fall of 1967 where more than 130 witnesses testified about the events leading up to the urban riots that had taken place in 150 cities the previous summer, one of the complaints that came up repeatedly was ‘the stopping of Negroes on foot or in cars without obvious basis.’”
There indeed have been countless times over the decades where motorists were stopped by law enforcement officers because of the color of their skin and not necessarily for an actual violation of motor vehicle laws — and police officers need not be white to perpetuate this phenomenon.
Consider the case of Rufus Scales — who was driving his younger brother Devin to his hair-cutting class in Greensboro in North Carolina when two law enforcement officers pulled them over for minor infractions — as just one example.
“Uncertain whether to get out of the car, Rufus Scales said, he reached to restrain his brother from opening the door. A black officer stunned him with a Taser, he said, and a white officer yanked him from the driver’s seat. Temporarily paralyzed by the shock, he said, he fell face down, and the officer dragged him across the asphalt”, according to this article written by Sharon LaFraniere for The New York Times. “Rufus Scales emerged from the encounter with four traffic tickets; a charge of assaulting an officer, later dismissed; a chipped tooth; and a split upper lip that required five stitches.”
There are people who will argue that the phenomena of “Flying While Muslim” and “Driving While Black” are necessary due to atrocities and crimes which have been attributed to both groups in the past — but you will not find me amongst them.
I just completed acting in an independent movie which is currently in post-production in which the majority of the actors were black. I also visited several countries last year whose populations are overwhelmingly predominantly Muslim. Not once did I think or believe that I was in any danger whatsoever. Not once did I feel like any personal property which was on my person would be taken or stolen.
On the contrary: I consistently felt welcomed and included; and I enjoyed interacting with them. Why? I believe one reason is because I engaged with them and respected them as people; and they did the same for me. Who initiated that civility is irrelevant.
I have always believed that travel is the great equalizer pertaining to human relations. Many of the problems which occur in this world is due to undue stereotype and a fear of the unknown — and that goes both ways. By showing some interest as to what people do and why, it generates discussion. Wearing a hijab does not mean that a Muslim woman is plotting to commit terror; and driving a car does not mean that a black person is up to no good.
We cannot allow the truly bad people in this world — the few who perpetuate the stereotypes with their actions — to dictate how we perceive each other and treat each other. This includes anyone on an airplane who thinks that just because a person is Muslim that they are automatically in danger. The chances of you being endangered on an airplane by anyone — let alone someone who is Muslim — is so remote that the possibility is not even worthy of thought.
As I have mentioned in numerous past articles such as this one, being alert and aware of your surroundings is your best protection and prevention of becoming a victim of terrorism or of a crime — no matter what is the race, gender, religious belief or otherwise of the person who might be responsible.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.