Seems like it. You can get sent to jail for wearing a scarf around your head in a courthouse. And you can be detained by the FBI in an airport for having a beard or wearing a scarf. And looking “Arab,” of course.
Mr. Irfan turned to his wife, Sobia Ijaz, as they boarded AirTran Flight 175 at Reagan National Airport near Washington Thursday afternoon, and wondered aloud where the safest place to sit on the airplane would be — the front? The rear? Over the wing?
But passengers sitting behind them evidently overheard the remark, saw Mr. Irfan’s beard and his wife’s head scarf, and grew concerned. Mr. Irfan and his wife, along with six members of their extended family, are Muslims, and were on their way to a religious conference in Orlando when they boarded the flight.
The worried passengers contacted flight attendants, who contacted Transportation Security Administration officials, and soon, Mr. Irfan and his wife were off the plane and being questioned in the jetway. The six remaining family members in the traveling party were taken off the plane as well, along with a family friend who happened to be on the same flight and who happens to be a lawyer for the Library of Congress.
Next, the nine Muslim passengers — all but one are United States-born American citizens — were taken to a quarantine area in the passenger lounge where they were questioned by F.B.I. agents. Mr. Irfan’s three small nephews were denied access to food in the family’s carry-on luggage.
WHY DO “THEY” HATE OUR FREEDOM?
Alright, that was just rhetorical. But for real, is there any question whether that woman would have gone to jail, whether that family would have been detained, if they hadn’t been visibly Muslim? What else did they “do” to appear suspicious to those around them? If a white, non-Muslim couple had had the same discussion as Ms. Ijaz and her husband while waiting for a flight, can we reasonably expect that they would be prevented from boarding the flight and questioned by the FBI?
Let’s all hope these incidents are isolated, but remain vigilant against all instances of discrimination against the Muslim community.
12/3/09 Update: AirTran has apologized. Yay AirTran for not remaining intractable.