Dressing Like a Terrorist

Like many others, I was dismayed to learn of the two imams wearing traditional Muslim garb who were forcibly removed from an airplane that was to carry them to a conference on Islamophobia.  The passengers who were removed from a Delta/ASA flight in Memphis, Masudur Rahman and Mohamed Zaghloul, apparently frightened other passengers and upset one of the pilots, who refused to fly with them on board.  Not everybody was dismayed, however.  The Delta/ASA pilot and the frightened passengers have received support from numerous voices among the American commentariat.

The situation was a clear-cut case of ethnic profiling.  On this everybody should agree.  Some of those who support the pilot’s action want to disclaim their support of profiling, but such a desire is dishonest.  People need to accept the realities of the positions they express, even if those positions attach to descriptors that have negative connotations.  If you support the pilot, you are supporting an instance of ethnic profiling.  Either accept that fact or develop a different opinion.

I have been reading commentaries about the case with much interest.  One argument in particular keeps arising:  the notion that Rahman and Zaghloul deserve what happened to them because they dressed like terrorists.  The reasoning goes like this:  Muslims commit terrorism; Muslims look a certain way; a certain look thus portends the possibility of terrorism.  In short, those who appear to be Muslim are worthy of extra scrutiny because they are more likely to be terrorists than other people.

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