A Hindu man, mistaken for a Muslim, was refused service by JetBlue earlier this month. Aditya Mukerjee, a New York-based data scientist, opted out of the TSA's wave detectors and chose to have a pat-down instead. During the procedure, for unknown reasons a swab sample of Mukerjee's hands caused the detector to beep and this spurred a series of events, which included detention for hours without food or water and encounters with various law-enforcement agencies. However, what upset Mukerjee the most was the way JetBlue treated him after they assumed he was a Muslim. A JetBlue security official asked him a series of offensive questions such as, “We have some female flight attendants. Would you be able to follow their instructions?” and “Will you need any special treatment during your flight? Do you need a special place to pray on board the aircraft?” Despite clearance from TSA and NYPD, JetBlue refused to allow him to fly.
This incident wouldn't be the first time a Muslim (or someone mistaken for a Muslim) was refused service by an airline or removed from a flight. A Muslim women, Irum Abbasi, who was cleared by TSA, was not allowed back on a flight because the crew members were “uncomfortable” with her presence. Two Muslim clerics, who were ironically headed to a conference on Islamophobia and discrimination against American Muslims, were asked to leave an aircraft in Memphis because “the pilot refused to fly with them aboard.” AirTran kicked a Muslim family off a plane because they sounded “suspicious.” Six Muslim leaders were removed from a US Airways flight for so-called “suspicious” behavior, which included performing the Muslim daily prayer.
All of these incidents, and many others demonstrate the continued existence of Islamophobia in the United States and highlight the use of discriminatory profiling tactics to deal with American Muslims. Years after a group of terrorists carried out attacks in the name of Islam, American Muslims are still being singled out and forced to endure special security screenings and invasive interviews merely for identifying with a specific religious faith. Traveling has become a difficult and humiliating process for many American Muslims who find themselves being completely barred from boarding a plane for unethical and bigoted reasons.
In many cases, Muslims are put on the “no-fly list” without any explanation or justified reason. This makes traveling for many American Muslims a complete nightmare. A Pew Research study found that the majority of Muslims believed 9/11 made it more difficult to be Muslim in the U.S as they are increasingly being singled out by airport security officials. Prejudiced behavior towards Muslim travelers has become so awful that even Muslim babies are being kicked off planes.
However, not everyone believes this Islamophobic behavior is necessarily a bad thing. In fact, many individuals suggest and advocate the profiling of American Muslims by airport security officials. Retired Air Force Genderal Tom Mclnerney said, “We have to use profiling. And I mean be very serious and harsh about the profiling. If you are an 18 to 28-year-old Muslim man then you should be strip searched.”
Radio host Mike Gallagher believes, “There should be a separate line to scrutinize anybody with the name Abdul or Ahmed or Mohammed.” This would take a while, considering those are some of the most common names in the world.
It’s unfortunate that most American Muslims are all too familiar with the so-called “random” security selection at airports in the United States. Muslim travelers are not unlike other American travelers. They follow the simple airport procedures. They empty their pockets, take off their shoes, put their liquids in a zip-locked bag, take out their laptops, and remove all metals and/or electronic objects form their pockets and clothes, but to no avail. Unlike non-Muslim travelers their last name isn’t “William” or “Smith,” they don’t always show their hair (or skin), and they aren't always clean-shaven. For these reasons, and others that may or may not identify someone as a Muslim, they are being profiled — and this needs to stop.
U.S security at airports, especially today, is both important and necessary. However, security that necessitates religious profiling and creates a false sense of safety must be rejected. TSA and airport officials need to reevaluate their methods and perhaps even be required to take Islam 101 courses so that when they see a Muslim praying at the airport they don’t panic. Today it’s the Muslim being profiled at the airport — but tomorrow it could be you.
What do you think of racial and religious profiling at airports? Is it ever justified? Share your thoughts with me on Twitter @TheVeiledVixen