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Published on : Thursday, April 21, 2016
Almost anybody with some current affairs information knows that Muslims and Arabs are going through a rough phase in the USA. The consequences of such tough times are impacting these communities in various ways — including their ability to travel and move about freely without being profiled or subjected to excessive scrutiny.
Hate crimes statistics against minority religious and ethnic groups indicate alarming levels of bigotry and intolerance during the ongoing election season.
Especially, the airline industry has proven extremely susceptible to it, as employees across the board seem eager for an excuse to kick particularly Arabs and Muslims off their planes.
Last week, national media highlighted two separate incidents involving Southwest Airlines employees offloading Muslim or Arab passengers from their aircraft for ridiculous reasons.
On Wednesday, a Maryland Muslim woman was ordered off the plane after asking a passenger to exchange seats with her. The passenger agreed, but despite Southwest’s open seating policy for passengers, a flight attendant objected without giving a plausible explanation.
The Muslim passenger was humiliated as airport police escorted her back to the gate. Police were informed there was no legitimate reason why she could not fly. Hours later, she boarded another flight to her destination.
In a different incident, an Iraqi UC Berkeley student was removed from his flight after a fellow passenger reported him for speaking in Arabic and saying “insh’Allah” — a common phrase amongst Muslims that translates to “God-willing”.
Southwest’s company slogan is ironically “You are now free to move about the country.” Apparently not, if you are an Arab or Muslim, is the harsh message these communities are receiving.
However, Southwest is not the only offender but somehow it has become infamous in some circles as the “airline for America’s bigots.”
In the past year, at least a dozen other cases have been reported involving various airlines including United, Spirit, and others where passengers have allegedly been wrongly scrutinized and profiled before being forcefully disembarked from planes prior to takeoff.
These passengers are predominantly Muslims and Arabs, but people of other religious and ethnic communities including Sikhs have also been affected negatively.
Most Americans don’t consider flying among their favourite pastimes. Some are actually terrified of it. The clinical term for this phobia is aviophobia.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 25 percent of Americans experience mild to moderate anxiety at the prospect of boarding a plane and around 20 million Americans suffer from the potentially debilitating fear it induces. No one is immune to fear, but one traveller’s anxieties, prejudices, and phobias should never interfere or violate another traveller’s civil rights.
America’s largest Muslim civil rights group has published “Know Your Rights” guidelines for fliers. Hopefully, you won’t need it, but it is useful to have it handy just in case.
Your Rights As An Airline Passenger
As a passenger in an airline, you are entitled to courteous, respectful and non-stigmatizing treatment by airliners and security personnel.
It’s illegal to perform any stops, searches, detentions, or removals based on race, religion, national origin, sex, or ethnicity.
If you believe you have been treated in a discriminatory manner, you should:
1. Ask for the names and ID number of all persons involved in the incident. Be sure to write down this information.
2. Ask to speak to a supervisor.
3. Politely ask if you have been singled out because of your name, looks, dress, race, ethnicity, faith, or national origin.
4. Politely ask witnesses to give you their names and contact information.
5. Write a statement of facts immediately after the incident. Be sure to include the flight number, the flight date and the name of the airline.
6. Contact CAIR to file a report. If you are leaving the country, leave a detailed message with the information above at 202-488-8787 or at www.cair.com.
Furthermore, it is important to note the following:
1. A customs agent has the right to stop, detain and search every person and item.
2. Screeners have the authority to conduct a further search of you or your bags.
3. A pilot has the right to refuse to fly a passenger if he or she believes the passenger is a threat to the safety of the flight. The pilot’s decision must be reasonable and based on observations, not stereotypes.
No-Fly List and Selectee List
Individuals facing difficulties while travelling at airports, train stations or U.S. borders may be on either the no-fly or selectee list. It is very difficult to determine if you are on one of these lists. You may be on the selectee list if you are unable to use the internet or the airport kiosks for automated check-in and instead have to check in at the ticketing counter. You should eventually be permitted to fly.
The no-fly list, on the other hand, prohibits individuals from flying at all. If you are able to board an airplane, regardless of the questioning or screening, then you are not on any no-fly list.
If you are constantly subjected to advanced screening or are prevented from boarding your flight, you should file a complaint with DHS TRIP at www.dhs.gov/trip. Most people who file with DHS TRIP are not on any watch list and that service can resolve most problems.
Tags: Muslim travellers