Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Muslim Family Kicked Off Plane

I was really hoping that the new year (and the election) meant that we were leaving this kind of garbage behind. On New Year’s day a large ( 9 member) Muslim-American family was kicked off an airline when passengers heard them discussing the safest places to sit and misconstrued the conversation to mean they were plotting something bad! The FBI cleared the family, but the airline still refused to seat them or give them a different flight! They are naturally considering suing the airline and I think they should since this kind of guilt-by-association must end and is clearly illegal.


January 2, 2009 - Posted by | civil liberties, human rights., Islam


  1. As salaam waalikum (May Peace be with you) Brother!

    In these Dark Times, Muslims need to change their attitude and buckle up to face the world and discuss the teachings of Islam clearly and openly;so that the fear is gone and peace is back.

    Comment by shoaibkhanz | January 2, 2009

  2. This was an unfortunate incident for the family and I wish that it had not occured. However, I don’t think that it was malicious intent on the part of the passengers especially considering these perilous times. The airline , it seems to mean, could have handled this incident in a better way.

    Comment by Paul | January 2, 2009


    Comment by john | January 2, 2009

  4. Paul,do you really think an anglo family would have faced the same situation? It is common among fliers to consider which seats are the safest on different planes in case of emergency. With the number of mishaps lately, I wager this family was not the only one to look for safe seats on that day. They were victims of the xenophobic paranoia running rampant in the US due to the rhetoric of Bush/Cheney and company.

    Comment by Tauratinzwe | January 2, 2009

  5. I strongly disagree with your comments. When it comes to National Security issues I believe that racial profiling is unfortunately a necessity. The Muslim religion is not a peaceful religion as they claim. Straight from their scriptures deceipt and religious suppression are promoted in the intent to make Islam the ONLY religion. For more facts and information please visit http://www.americancongressfortruth.com/

    Comment by John | January 2, 2009

  6. I don’t believe it has anything to do with Bush/Cheny. It has to do with 4,000 people that lost their lives on 911. The airlines has stated they can fly with them again. It would make me very happy if all passengers were that alert. We do no need more people blown up in airplanes. The threat is still real. So quite complaining when people are alert to a possible threat and others do their jobs.

    Comment by Pat | January 2, 2009

  7. All I can say is “when in Rome”…if you are Muslim and you want to stand out in a crowd, just wear your religious garb and know that you are asking for it. Presumably Muslim Americans are astute enough to realize their appearance and or behavior can raise paranoia in most Americans. When I travel to Saudi Arabia, I wear a veil to blend in. Stop complaining and do the same. This is America and we’re sick of you – grow up or move to a Muslim country.

    Comment by jena dietze | January 2, 2009

  8. “They were victims of the xenophobic paranoia running rampant in the US due to the rhetoric of Bush/Cheney and company” – Comment by Tauratinzwe

    It isn’t paranoia when muslims, starting in the 1960’s, have actually hijacked planes, actually killed passengers and actually flown them into buildings.

    It isn’t xenophobic to observe the from the killing of Bobby Kennedy in 1968, Munich Olympics in 1972, U.S. Embassy in Iran in 1979, Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, Achille Lauro in 1985, Athens TWA Flight 874 in 1985, PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988, World Trade Center bombing in 1993, U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and the World Trade Center / Pentagon / U.S. Capitol bombings in 2001 were all carried out by extremist muslims.

    All the above having nothing at all to do with any rhetoric fromt the current U.S. Administration. The videotaped murder of Daniel Pearl in 2002 and the Madrid and London railway bombing in 2004 and 2005 respectively are a continuing reality that needs to be addressed.

    The American people have their guard up against further attacks. They should stay as vigilant until muslims by word and by deed denounce violence against non-muslims as a method of spreading their religion and culture.

    These people were NOT made guilty by association. They bought attention to themselves by alarming their fellow passengers. The airline says it followed the TSA and federal guidlines and their own discretion. If it’s a decision between going on the word of a FBI agent’s short interrogation or being extra careful and putting them off the airline, I’m glad they went with the one that would ensure no one would die.

    Comment by Tom | January 2, 2009

  9. There are some xenophobes in the USA I agree and I doubt that an “anglo” family would have been subjected to what occured. However, that aside some people are afraid to fly today due to past hijackings and planes being blown up in recent history. When I fly I am very circumspect about the passengers with whom I fly and that is not a bad way to be. A lot of frequent flyers behave in the same way. Once a plane is airborne it is too late to deplane.

    Comment by Paul | January 2, 2009

  10. Its too bad that the flights on 911 didn’t question certain activities from their passengers. Considering how Americans have been targeted recently, I feel the airline acted appropriately. It IS too bad that this happened to this family.. They should understand because of the past decade attacks , (that still continue) questioning certain events WILL happen to ensure the safety of the plane and the other passengers.

    Comment by Teri | January 2, 2009

  11. “When I fly I am very circumspect about the passengers with whom I fly and that is not a bad way to be.”

    I beg to differ.

    Comment by Mike Todd | January 2, 2009

  12. Some of these bigotted remarks by readers make me ashamed to be a human being–and I hope they don’t live in the U.S. White Anglo-Saxon Protestants have created more terrorism than anyone else in the world, but we would greatly protest such profiling.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | January 2, 2009

  13. It’s comment threads like these that make me sorry to be an american. Since when was the spirit inside us a spirit of fear?

    Comment by brandon | January 2, 2009

  14. Michael a terrorist is a terrorist first and foremost. In recent years fanatics purporting to be good Muslims (their claim not mine) have created choas and misery on a grand scale around the world. To me they are odious and beneath contempt and I will classify other terrorists who claim different religions to be the same. We are so hooked on race and ethnicity when we should classify people by good and bad – resulting from their actions.What is in a person’s heart means more to me than the color of his,or her, skin.

    Comment by Paul | January 2, 2009

  15. The FBI cleared this family–and the airline still kicked them out. You people are false Christians and make me sick.

    BTW, it’s not just Muslims who are being treated this way, but also people with similar names to people on “watch lists” (including an 80 year old nun!) and peace activists. I and others involved in peace groups (plus the ACLU and other civil liberties groups) have been repeatedly harassed, and sometimes kicked off flights, ever since 9/11. The airlines, the public, “homeland security” equate nonviolence and dissent with terrorism–and fools like some of you just feed the paranoia.

    I’ve so seldome been disgusted with a bunch of my readers as this. It’s enough to make me want to delete this blog and move to Canada.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | January 2, 2009

  16. Michael, I completely agree with your post and the comments are unbelievabe.

    Comment by Richard | January 3, 2009

  17. Michael I can disagree with someone without moving to Canada or anywhere else. The free flow of ideas is much better than guns at 20 paces. Understanding comes with dialogue. Muhammad Ali once said that what made him a great boxer was that he didn’t punch when he should be ducking and didn’t duck when he should be punching. There is a lot of life wisdom in that statement. keepm your chin up. People with good intentions have been trying to bring change to this world for eons. It takes time.

    Comment by Paul | January 3, 2009

  18. Paul, I have been working for peace with justice for over 20 years. Don’t lecture me. If I didn’t move to Canada after the ’04 elections,
    I wouldn’t now. Learn to recognize sarcasm and hyperbole when you see it, Dude. I was expressing how sickened I am at readers,
    including you, who tried to find ANY justification for the airline’s actions–cloaking this bigotry in pious mouthings. I find it ironic, too, that you should try to use the words of a famous Muslim peace advocate (and a native of my adoptive city) to lecture me. Nice.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | January 3, 2009

  19. “The FBI cleared this family–and the airline still kicked them out. You people are false Christians and make me sick.”

    Ooooo burn!!! Perfect response. I cheered out loud.

    Seriously, people…bigoted much?

    Comment by dcrowe | January 3, 2009

  20. Michael I have not found any justification for the airline’s actions. I was trying to understand what went on. I wasn’t lecturing you and I am sorry if you took it that way. Bigotry comes in many forms and no one has an absolute hold on the truth. I try to see both sides of an argument and I can disagree without being mean and nasty or self righteous about it. As for Ali, I have always admired and respected the man for his good qualities. I too have been upset by some of the comments here. However, let me give you a piece of advice. First please don’t call me dude – I am 60 years old and never make an enemy of a person who comes to you in friendship. 🙂

    Comment by Paul | January 3, 2009

  21. P.S. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.

    Comment by Paul | January 3, 2009

  22. Paul, I’m 46 and this is the first time that “Dude” has offended anyone I’ve met. I am not trying to make you an enemy. Your remarks did not seem to be anything more than a politer way of defending the airline. I am glad that I misunderstood that.

    Seeing all sides has many things to recommend it. But it is not always appropriate. I cannot see Amos trying to see things from the point of view of the rich women he called “fat cows of Bashan.” Or Jeremiah trying to calmly see things from the viewpoint of those who cast him in the well. Or Jesus from the pov of the moneychangers in the temple.

    Far too often Christians are kept from condemning true evil by a culture of “nice” which has nothing to do with loving enemies.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | January 3, 2009

  23. Michael, I would never sacrifice the truth for the sake of being nice – I could not,in good conscience do it. I agree with you in many ways and I respect your opinions even if we disagree occasionally. I can be abrasive at times and for that I apologize,but I do believe in Jesus’ love and mercy. 🙂 On an entirely different topic, I just purchased Thomas Merton’s “New Seeds of Contemplation” which came out in 1961. Have you read it?

    Comment by Paul | January 3, 2009

  24. Reading some of these comments makes me, as ever, glad I’m not American. If I was, I would find it very difficult to love my neighbours. I suppose I would have to work on loving them as enemies or something. I must remember not to discuss my seat next time I fly – I might be mistaken for a terrorist or worse, a Muslim! Salam alei kum.

    Comment by steph | January 4, 2009

  25. BTW, thinking of fling to America next year (agghhhh!!!), are you going to New Orleans in November Michael?

    Comment by steph | January 4, 2009

  26. I was born American and for better or worse I have to accept that fact. There are good people in all nations just as there are bad ones. We just seem to get the most press whether we deserve it or not. I love my neighbors, because jesus loved his neighbors.

    Comment by Paul | January 4, 2009

  27. No, why would I go to New Orleans in November? I do have relatives who live in Eunice, La (west of Baton Rouge near the Texas border) and have been to N.O. both before and after Katrina, but I don’t have anything taking me there next Nov.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | January 4, 2009

  28. If that was in response to me Paul I think you missed the point.

    Michael: The SBL of course!

    Comment by steph | January 4, 2009

  29. I sometimes wonder how I would view the USA if I lived in say Mexico. I wonder if I would be one of those people heading to El Norte. I think that it depends on one’s perspective and livingcondition.

    Comment by Paul | January 4, 2009

  30. Steph, I haven’t been to the SBL in years. Since I stopped teaching ethics and philosophy (except for the odd adjunct course or two), I haven’t even been able to afford to go to the Society of Christian Ethics meetings every January. And I MISS those. The AAR-SBL meetings were never fun for me–just places to network for possible jobs I never got.

    I also miss going to the Society of Christian Philosophers. Maybe sometime in the future I will be an academic again, instead of an activist/educator and freelance writer. I hope so since I miss teaching–but my family doesn’t want to move and almost any post I could get would require a move. My wife and kids come first.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | January 4, 2009

  31. I’m very disappointed about that. I was looking forward to meeting you. I love conferences, just to meet old friends and make new ones, and talk to people I am engaging with in my thesis … but I’m definitely not looking for jobs in America or even England. I need to be here where I can live cheaply, grow my own, swim in the sea and feel ‘safe’. In my 40s now, and also now on my own, I regret to say I have no desire for an academic ‘career’ anymore although I would like to stay active in the field – research and writing – while living like a hippie. (I never grew up 🙂 )

    Comment by steph | January 5, 2009

  32. I would also like to meet you. I like some conferences, but I hate crowds. The AAR-SBL meetings were never fun for me: expensive (I always lost money going), crowded, with people talking past each other–usually very ivory tower and removed from the concerns of the churches.
    At the Society of Christian Ethics on the other hand, the disagreements were within a broad but smaller range. People had read the books of those they were debating–maybe even assigned those books to their classes. The sense of collegiality–even among those with large disagreements–was real. It doesn’t exist in the AAR-SBL as far as I could tell. I found those meetings to be just circuses.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | January 5, 2009

  33. I don’t cope in crowds at all unless I feel ‘safe’. I feel safe when I’m attached to someone – that is, I never ever go on my own. I generally go with Maurice and if he can’t go, James. Silly huh? On my own I’d crumble – well, I wouldn’t go. The best conferences are small – the OT in NT conferences in England of about 20 and the Synoptic Conference in Oxford last year of about 40 – all of whom I felt I ‘knew’ anyway – they were the best. I’ve only been to one SBL and that was chaos. I swam in Vienna’s swimming pools and the Danube every day which was a relief. I still hope I meet you one day.

    Comment by steph | January 6, 2009

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