‘It just so happened’ that Muslims were pulled off a plane

It's a new year (and also a new day), but one thing we can still count on is people of Islamic and/or AirTran
South Asian background being pulled off planes.

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

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Good comment. Imagine if a plane-load of Africans were frightened of a white man and his comments onboard, would they haul him off the flight?

  2. RamadasMannattil says:

    We have come back to square one, to the day on which Mohandas Karamchand was hauled out of the first class train compartment for his skin colour. Have we even developed?

  3. Ramadas, unfortunately history keeps repeating itself. I can only imagine how bad these people felt. And I can understand why Rohinton Mistry cancelled his book tour in ’02. http://news.bookweb.org/news/921.html

  4. I think you are thinking like sukrat, but I think you should cover the other side of the topic in the post too…

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