License to Discriminate
an eighteen-hour flight Munira, a Bangladeshi woman, finally
arrived at Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. heaving a sigh
of relief. She took out her Green Card and held it out to
the unsmiling immigration officer in front of her but he
was busy thumbing through her passport.
looking up he said “You have a visa for Saudi Arabia.”
Munira's heart stopped. “Yes I went to Mecca for my umrah.”
“What's that,” the officer asked
“It's a mini-hajj,” she replied. “I…”
“What do you do there,” the officer curtly interrupted.
“Sorry,” she asked, flabbergasted.
“Do you pray in Arabic?” the officer insisted.
“I, uh yes…” she said.
“Step into that room for questioning. NEXT…” the officer
“But I have a Green Card…” she started.
“What did I just say? Do you understand English?” the officer
went into the little room and stayed there for two hours
while the immigration officers questioned her. When they
finally let her go, she was exhausted from all the crying
she had done…
It has been two years since September
11th a day that will forever play over and over again in
peoples' minds. Over three thousand people lost their lives.
It is a day that the United States of America is not likely
to forget any time soon. The atmosphere on that day was
a mix of confusion, shell shock, paranoia and hysteria.
Scenes flashed before our eyes on the T.V. screen: the second
plane hitting one of the towers, people screaming and running
all over the streets of downtown New York, the proud and
stately twin towers slowly crumbling to the ground and eventually
reduced to a gigantic pile of rubble and debris--an omen
for the world. It has been two years since September 11th,
but how the world has changed.
Apart from racial profiling which
is no longer a violation of human rights, but a 'precautionary
measure' in the U.S., the most significant impact that September
11th has had is probably most salient in our travel experiences.
Airport authorities are as rude and unreasonable as ever
because they are now able to play God without any limits
to their prejudices. Be it during immigration, security
check, or even on transit, there is no limit to the harassment
that Muslim people face while travelling, more often in
the United States than anywhere else.
was running late as I hurried through JFK International
Airport. The flight to London was in less than an hour.
I had already been questioned for twenty minutes during
check-in, and stopped for a “random search” in which they
completely unpacked all my suitcases, rummaging through
every article of clothing. After all, maybe I had hidden
a bomb in my underwear.
stopped at security check and put my bags on the conveyor
belt. I thought this would be easy enough. I had made sure
I didn't have a single scrap of metal on me when I was getting
dressed, not even jewellery. I had double-checked my hand
luggage to make sure that I had nothing suspicious so that
I would not be searched unnecessarily. I should have known
better. As I walked through the metal detector a security
officer indicated to me.
unbutton the first button of your jeans,” the lady said.
“Excuse me,” I asked, dumbfounded.
“And take off your shoes and sweater, thank you,” the lady
continued as if not hearing me.
“Can I go into a room or something for this,” I asked, not
wanting to be mauled in public.
“No this will only take a few minutes,” she replied.
stood there, barefoot, jeans undone, feeling humiliated
as the woman proceeded to put her hands wherever she deemed
necessary. I could not help but notice that no white people
were being asked to stop and take off their clothes for
the officer was done searching I walked back to the conveyor
belt and reached for my purse. A hand shot out and grabbed
I say you could take that,” a man snapped at me.
“Sorry,” I mumbled.
“Take out all the items in your bag one by one and show
them to me,” he said.
“Sir I don't mean to be rude but my flight is boarding in
less than half an hour,” I pleaded, panicked.
“Then you had better hurry,” the man said nastily.
heard the people around me laughing. I was so angry I was
shaking, but over here I was at their mercy. Accepting defeat
I did what the man asked without another word and made it
on my flight with only minutes to spare…
It is plain to see that the war against
terrorism is in full swing. The new world order's plan of
action is simple: feed into paranoia and ignorance, target
anyone and everyone who fits a certain profile with regards
to their names and backgrounds and isolate the Muslim population
all over the world. It is understandable that the US government
and other countries are trying to take extra precautionary
measures but is this kind of blatant discrimination and
harassment really necessary? And who can we really blame
at the end of the day: An ignorant President and his equally
ignorant cronies, or those genius fifteen suicide hijackers
who changed the world in a day, and made life even more
difficult for their fellow Muslim brothers and sisters?