Two Muslim women were escorted by authorities off a JetBlue flight from Boston to Los Angeles for allegedly “staring” at a flight attendant. The incident, which was recorded by passengers, saw the passengers of the flight being instructed to remain seated after the plane landed as authorities were boarding the flight. The two women were then instructed to take their hand luggage. They were then taken in for interrogation.
Witnesses stated the following regarding the flight attendant:
Passengers told Daily Mail that the women caused no scenes on the flight, sat quietly, watched movies throughout the trip, and that the response was “overkill.”
When pressed for comment, JetBlue expressed a commitment towards a policy oriented towards the “safe and secure operation of our flights…as a security precaution, are asked to be aware of anyone who may be filming or taking photographs of in-flight procedures or the flight deck area.”
However, the claim that the women were recording flight safety procedures has not been substantiated. What has been substantiated is the practice of Muslims being discriminated against when traveling by air. This phenomenon is so widespread that it has led to the coining of the phrase, “flying while Muslim,” which describes the experience of Muslim travelers who face discriminatory screening processes.
To many Muslims who have traveled by plane in the aftermath of 9/11, the scene played out in the JetBlue flight brings to mind their own experiences with traveling, and the humiliations and discrimination experienced by Muslims everyday in airports around the world.
At a practical level, incidents such as these undermine the real purpose of airport security and screenings: to keep all travelers safe throughout their journey. By typecasting a small segment of travelers as a risk and subjecting them to heightened security protocols, an atmosphere of distrust and frustration regarding these security measures is created, which can only undermine overall security.
One may assume that the two Muslim women were targeted because of their clothing and religious background, and ultimately subjected to a humiliating experience for allegedly “staring” at flight attendants. “Flying while Muslim” has proven on may occasions to be hazardous for passengers who can’t (nor should) hide their faith. Most recently, like the details shown in this particular event, Muslim women are often guilty until proven innocent, and a mere suspicion of “staring” is grounds enough to be escorted off planes by authorities.