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August 18, 2008

Another Case of Flying While Muslim

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 3:33 pm

Growing up in the suburbs with a 98% Caucasian population we used to joke about the “crime” of DWB, or “Driving While Black.” It’s not that we were racist, but it sure seemed like the local police were.

Luckily those times have changed and our city has grown culturally. Now they profile based on age and music genre – which is at least 2 steps up from skin color.

After 9/11 I started hearing people turn the DWB joke into FWM, for “flying while Muslim.”

As I write this I’m somewhere over the barrens of one of the Dakotas (I think it’s south) on a 747 headed to Seattle. About 3 hours ago I learned first hand that FWM was indeed a harsh reality.

We were pulling away from the gate at Detroit Metro Airport and the stewardess was just finishing up her seatbelt, oxygen mask, seat cushion speech. As she finished she leaned over and tapped a man on the shoulder and said “you need to put on your seatbelt and bring your seatback forward.

Either he’d never been on a plane before, or he was having a bad day because he said “why?” to which she replied “we have rules.” While that should have been the end of it there, he said “well, I didn’t know the rules.”

Deciding that she needed the last word, the flight attendant shot back a rude “I don’t want to hear it.” That’s when he told her that it was her job to hear it. (rude, but isn’t it?)

After a brief discussion with the head flight attendant, I saw them pick up the phone. I knew right away what that meant, and sure enough about 15 minutes later I heard “flight attendants prepare for arrival.”

We’d already left the gate so we had to wait for 20 minutes until somebody could board and remove the passenger. That wouldn’t have been a huge problem but due to fuel restrictions airlines are only putting just enough fuel to get there in the planes. Our 45 minutes of waiting had used too much gas, so we had to refuel. Doesn’t that make you feel safer when flying? If anything unexpected happens, it better not take more than 45 minutes or I guess you just fall out of the sky. Comforting.

Would this have happened if he hadn’t been Muslim? Nobody knows for sure, but I personally doubt it. It all could have been avoided with a little pleasantry on both sides. Simple customer service techniques like asking “can you” instead of saying “you need to” might have been all it took to avoid this situation – and get me to Seattle on time.

Over an hour later, we got in the air. We’re somewhere over Idaho now and instead of already having landed I’m watching Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. I’m not sure if it’s irony or just a tragic coincidence that Harold and Kumar are also removed from a plane as terrorists. Whatever it is, it certainly supports my point about FWM.

What should have been a 4-hour flight just turned into six because of two rude people. I haven’t been trained in airline security, but nobody on the plane actually thought this guy was a threat to our safety. The stewardess was either profiling or just being a vindictive bitch (because he clearly had the better come back) – neither of these behaviors are acceptable though.

I hate to see what he’s going through now. He was probably treated to a routine strip search while his name was being put on the do not fly list and felony charges were brought. He really doesn’t deserve what he’s probably going through. It’s safe to say he probably won’t ever be flying again or he might want to just start flying private with Jettly so he doesn’t get discriminated.

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