"Flying while Arab or Muslim" has joined the profiling lexicon alongside "driving while Arab or Muslim," "driving while Black" and "driving while brown" since 9/11. "Flying while Arab or Muslim" expression has come to describe the reality of travel for all Muslims, non-Muslim Arabs, and anyone who looks like they could be from the Middle East or any other region of the world perceived as predominantly Muslim.
In a charged atmosphere - fomented by the inflammatory rhetoric surrounding the New York Mosque project by anti-Islam and anti-Muslim bigots as well as Rightwing ranters - two embarrassing incidents of "Flying While Muslim" happened this week.
On Monday (August 30), Ahmad Al-Soofi and Hezem Al-Murisi, United States residents of Yemeni descent, were taken into custody by the Dutch authorities when their flight from Chicago landed in Amsterdam. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers alerted the Dutch authorities of the travelers after finding "suspicious objects" in the luggage of one of the passengers. The US Government found no reasons to charge either individual with any crime, and the Dutch authorities released the two on Wednesday (September 1).According to ABC News, at first it was believed the two may have been doing a test run on a terrorist attack. After investigation, it was uncovered that the two did not know each other and were not traveling together. Tellingly, neither of these men were on any U.S. terror watch lists as White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has called for a clarification and explanation from the DHS as to whether the national origin of these two passengers played a role in notifying Dutch authorities and in the subsequent detentions. The ADC also called for an explanation of the "flight pattern" criteria, adopted this past April as part of the new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines, that may have been applied under these circumstances.
"It is readily apparent from this and other incidents that such guidelines are having a disparate impact on the Arab and Muslim American communities; and it appears, without question, that the final destination of these two individuals played a role in their detention," the ADC said.
In another episode of "Flying While Muslim," on Tuesday (August 31) a nine-member Pakistani military delegation, headed by Rear Admiral Arif Allah Hussaini, were deplaned from the United Airlines flight 727 from the DullesInternationalAirport in Washington to Tampa. They were interrogated for two hours after a passenger on the flight that a member of the Pakistani delegation, while talking to a flight attendant, had made remarks that he found threatening.