Muslim passengers removed from the plane

Two Muslim families and their friend were removed from an Air Tran Airways plane because – well, because they are Muslims.

This is from www.cnn.com:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — AirTran Airways apologized Friday to members of a Muslim family for kicking them off a plane and refusing to rebook them despite requests from FBI agents who had cleared them of wrongdoing.

The families of Atif Irfan, a tax attorney, and his brother Kashif Irfan, an anesthesiologist, were removed from a flight in Washington before takeoff Thursday after a passenger reported hearing Atif Irfan’s wife say something suspicious.

The FBI interviewed the family and cleared them of wrongdoing.

The Muslim families were suspected of being terrorists. All it needed to remove the NINE Muslims was a paranoid, xenophobic passenger to report that she overheard the Muslims say something suspicious. The passenger reported her suspicions to the flight attendant, who in turn told the captain. The captain immediately asked the air marshals to remove the Muslim passengers from the plane.

Good God! Did they think that those Muslims would blow themselves up, including their wives and children? These non-Muslim Americans have really been brainwashed by the Bush propaganda.

The human rights of these nine Muslims, including three children were trampled upon. They were thrown out of the plane and subjected to interrogation by the FBI. The funny thing is, they are Americans.

What happened to the Anwar El-Ibrahimi character in the movie RENDITION (2007) could very well have happened to them. In the film, El Ibrahimi was an Arab-American working abroad. On his return to the States, he was picked up by authorities and brought to a foreign detention center (like Guantanamo) and interrogated and tortured until he was forced to “confess” what the Americans and their local thugs wanted to hear.

Even when the FBI cleared the Muslims, the airline still refused to let the Muslims board their plane. The airline then issued a statement which was unapologetic. Later, they made a second statement, this time, apologizing to the Muslim families and other passengers who were inconvenienced by the delay of the flight.

In its second statement, the airline said, Our goal at AirTran Airways is to offer a safe, pleasant and positive travel experience for all customers every day on every flight.” It appears that Muslims are not considered “customers”. Before 9/11, “the Customer is always Right.” After 9/11, a Muslim customer has no rights.

Two of the Muslims are lawyers. They should sue the airline. And if there are brave, enterprising Muslim lawyers in the US, they should file a class suit against airlines or even against the government for all the horrible things they have done to Muslim passengers, foreign and local.

After 9/11, I refuse to go abroad, especially to US and Europe. I have heard all sorts of stories of what airport authorities had done to Muslims. One Muslim Filipino said when he arrived in the US for a conference; he was denied entry and sent back to Manila. Here in Manila, so many Muslims were denied entry, mostly Pakistanis. One Saudi multi-millionaire who was wearing the traditional Arab attire (thobe) and sporting a thick beard was denied entry. I heard that he came here looking for investments.

Western airports have always been strict on Muslims, but not like now.

On my very first visit to Europe, so long ago, I was also “interrogated.” I was 19 years old and I went to (West) Germany for my practicum under the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE). I was to go to the Petroleum Engineering department of the Clausthal Institute of Technology.

In my excitement to go to Europe, I forgot to bring the telex from IAESTE. At that time, Filipinos did not need visas to Europe. I arrived in Frankfurt on a SAUDIA plane from Saudi Arabia. I was 19, lanky, long-haired and wearing a smart gabardine suit. Since I rode first class, I was given a complimentary carnation, which I wore on my lapel.

At the Immigration, I gave my passport to the man at the counter. The fellow opened a huge black book. I leaned over the counter and took a look at the book. It was a list of names. And to my surprise, there were so many ABBASes listed. The names Jamal, Yahya and Abbas are so common in the Muslim world, except in Mindanao. (It is only recently that there are so many named Jamal). It is a good thing that my second name is ASHLEY. Nobody in the Muslim world has that name!

After checking the black book, the guy stamped my passport and let me go. But while waiting for my luggage, a German guy came over and started talking to me. He showed me an ID. I think it had “CONTROL” or something in it. He asked me my reason for coming, where I was from, etc. I laughed and told him, “You think I’m from the Red Brigade or something?” At that time, European terrorist groups were more notorious than Arab groups.

I did not mind all the questions. In fact I welcomed them because I could also ask him questions of my own. I was supposed to go to Bonn and I did not know how to get there. When my luggage arrived, he got it and led me to a small room. He examined it. He was quite interested in my HP (Hewlett-Packard) programmable computer. At that time, few people could afford it and is used only by engineers or scientists or engineering / science students. Then he said, “OK. I believe you.” He then led me out of the room, and pointed the way to the train station with instructions on what to do.

When he said, “I believe you”, I was quite shocked. It was only then that I realized I was truly under investigation and could have been in danger. What if he did not believe me? He kept on asking me for a document indicating I was invited by IAESTE but I had nothing to show him except the address where I was supposed to go.

I got my HP scientific programmable calculator and thanked it. I was sure that it was the dead give-away that I was an engineering student going for my practicum and not a teenage suicide bomber.

3 thoughts on “Muslim passengers removed from the plane

  1. Hello there! First off, I’m Celine from the Philippines. I am searching the internet for blogs or testimonies regarding experiences with the IAESTE program and I found your blog post. Even though I understand it’s not fully about IAESTE, just the mention of it captured my attention. If I may ask, how was the IAESTE program? I’d really appreciate it if you reply cuz it’s gonna be my first time participating in such program. Thank you very much!!

  2. Passbyer,

    They were kicked out for their looks — they look like Muslims, i.e., Middle Eastern or South Asian (Indian/Pakistani).

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