Officials ordered nine Muslim passengers, including three young children, off an AirTran flight headed to Orlando from Reagan National Airport yesterday afternoon after two other passengers overheard what they thought was a suspicious remark. [Link]
A suspicious remark? I wonder what it was. Did one of them say to another: "You take the window seat. I may need to get up during the flight." Or did he say, "Good news, Kashif! The flight attendants are all female!"
Kashif Irfan, one of the removed passengers, said the incident began
about 1 p.m. after his brother, Atif, and his brother's wife wondered
aloud about the safest place to sit on an airplane.
"My brother and his wife were discussing some aspect of airport
security," Irfan said. "The only thing my brother said was, 'Wow, the
jets are right next to my window.' I think they were remarking about
Ah, I can see why the other passengers were concerned: "Those Muslims are talking about airport security. They know where the jets are. OH MY GOD! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!"
Irfan said he and the others think they were profiled because of their
appearance. He said five of the six adults in the party are of South
Asian descent, and all six are traditionally Muslim in appearance, with
the men wearing beards and the women in headscarves. …
AirTran spokesman Tad Hutcheson agreed that the incident amounted to
a misunderstanding. But he defended AirTran's handling of the incident,
which he said strictly followed federal rules. And he denied any
wrongdoing on the airline's part.
"At the end of the day, people got on and made comments they
shouldn't have made on the airplane, and other people heard them,"
Hutcheson said. "Other people heard them, misconstrued them. It just so
happened these people were of Muslim faith and appearance. It
escalated, it got out of hand and everyone took precautions."
I love the way he phrased that: "It just so happened that these people were of Muslim faith and appearance."
If he was being truly honest, he would say, "Of course, they looked like Muslims. Had they been white, the pilot would have gone to them and said, 'Ah, I see that you've spotted the jets. Would you like to take a tour of the cockpit?'"
AirTran's slogan, by the way, is "go. there's nothing stopping you." Perhaps they should change it to: "go on another airline, Muslims. there's nothing stopping you."
Photo by James Willamor