Southwest Airlines Delays Flight After Paranoid Passengers Hear Other Travelers Speaking Arabic November 23, 2015

Southwest Airlines Delays Flight After Paranoid Passengers Hear Other Travelers Speaking Arabic

I don’t have a lot of good things to say about President George W. Bush. However, if there’s one thing he got right, it was in a speech following 9/11 when he said:

The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.

It was a message people needed to hear but they weren’t listening. To be fair, if the policies enacted by the Bush administration are any indication, Bush wasn’t listening to himself. That said, we would all do well to heed those words today.

Much has been said about the rights sacrificed in the name of security back then, but we gave up a large chunk of our humanity as well. Violence against people who fit the Western view of what a Muslim looks like soared, causing many to fear for their lives. Overt and thinly veiled prejudice against the same population ran rampant. And now, in the wake of the Paris attacks, people aren’t even pretending not to be bigots anymore.

This goes far beyond talk of Muslim registries, IDs, and internment camps. It’s in everyday life — including, it seems, during travel. All those warnings you hear in the airport about reporting suspicious behavior? It turns out speaking Arabic is suspicious enough for Southwest Airlines to be alarmed.

Melissa Cronin at Gawker writes:

Khalil, 29 and Ayyad, 28, moved to Philadelphia from Palestine 15 years ago. Khalil now owns the Feltonville pizza shop — Pizza Point — that gave him his first job. The friends were in Chicago visiting each other’s families and met back at the airport Wednesday night to take the same flight home. The gate agent told them apologetically they wouldn’t be allowed to board because a passenger was afraid to fly with them after overhearing the men speaking Arabic.

“I didn’t know what to do, so I called the cops,” Khalil said.

The flight was delayed and the two men were ultimately allowed to board after being questioned again by airport security and police.

So much for that “free to move about the country” marketing campaign. Southwest Airlines responded to the events by saying:

Safety is our primary focus, and our Employees are trained to make decisions to ensure that safety, and to safeguard the security of our Crews and Customers on every flight.

Really? This is what Southwest’s employees are trained to do? Condone anti-Muslim bigotry by declaring the presence of people who simply speak Arabic an inherent threat to security? If someone suffering from schizophrenia complained about imaginary assassins on one of their planes, they wouldn’t take that seriously, right? Yet here they are, sympathetically treating a fear just as irrational as completely reasonable.

Well done, Southwest. You’re making decisions out of terror, which is precisely what those terrorists were looking for in the first place.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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