Saturday, August 19, 2006

“Suspicious” Pair Thrown Off of Flight Bound for the UK

'Suspicions': Jo and Heath Schofield with daughter Isabel. Below: Passengers mutinied on a Monarch Airlines A320 at Malaga (photo and caption take from Mutiny on Flight 613 from the Daily Telegraph).

The story Mutiny on Flight 613 - Passengers refuse to allow holiday jet to take off until two Asian men are thrown off plane starts off by describing what happened:

British holidaymakers staged an unprecedented mutiny - refusing to allow their flight to take off until two men they feared were terrorists were forcibly removed. (click here for the full article).
I have to say when I read this article I could see the perspective of the freaked out passengers who refused to fly. However, I also started thinking about the perspectives of the two men who were kicked off the flight too. As a black American woman, I get hit with frustrating stereotypes quite a bit. It’s annoying to deal with, but I look at the world and I see exactly where those stereotypes come from and there are, unfortunately, some people who fit them perfectly. However, the fact still remains that I don’t fit them in some ways. However, the world isn't targeting black American women and we're not geting tossed off of flights. But now that's starting to happen as two men were kicked off a flight bound for the UK a few days ago.

Yes, there is a huge problem with terrorism and the radical Muslim world that simply has it out for the West. My country has a war on terrorism and rightly so. However, how they’ve chosen to fight it seems to only make it worse. It seems that what the average individual seems to forget, assuming they knew it in the first place, is that the majority of Muslims seem to not be extremist jihadists out to kill us.

Furthermore, what these folks don’t recognize is that there are Muslim extremists out there that look just like them. I remember reading news stories about al Qaeda and similar organizations recruiting white Muslims. As Pepe Escobar wrote in Self-Service jihad,

…the exodus to jihad lands is also on the rise. It's not only destination Iraq; more and more so-called "white Moors" - white Muslims carrying European Union passports - are leaving for jihad training in Chechnya.
These guys can be disgruntled locals like Americans or Europeans or they can be whites from the former Soviet states who, as we know, have launched terrorist attacks in Russia. These white Muslims will not get the type of reaction that happened in this case. They will not get eyed and have people say “they look like terrorists”. They’ll slip right under the radar because they look like they stepped out of a J.Crew ad. I think one big problem is these people with their suspicions are at the lowest rung of informed. If you rely on TV with its flashy edits to inform you about the world, you're screwed. The problem is you screw up the world around you too.

If people are that jittery about traveling then maybe for the good of us that don't want to deal with the stupidity, don't travel. Simply because someone is Muslim and speaks Arabic shouldn't be a bar to traveling.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying be politically correct and risk your life. Had the situation been reversed and I was boarding a plane and didn't feel safe, I wouldn't get on it. It was "... noticed that, despite the heat, the pair were wearing leather jackets and thick jumpers and were regularly checking their watches." Only the people who were there can testify to what exactly put them off with these two. However, it seems more like a wave of paranoia went through the passengers due to the recent Heathrow terror plot discovery as well as just the general fear in the West of terror attacks.

It seems like these two men were thrown off this flight simply because they were out of the mainstream. They looked different. They spoke a different language. They were dressed differently. They acted differently. This really does seem like a bunch of folks waiting at the gate who saw two men who fit the general stereotype of a "terrorist" and then their fear and imaginations went to town.

The conflict is would I prefer it if they had submerged their suspicions and then had unfortunately been correct? Then we would have heard of another terror attack with hundreds dead. Well, of course not. The problem is I sympathize and understand the actions of the passengers but another part of me fears a trend of people getting tossed off of flights due to group paranoia.

More sources:
'Suspicious' pair taken off plane
Terror fears force pair off flight
Al-Qaeda's Recruitment Operations in the Balkans
Special Report - Chechnya
Special Report - Russia

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