Flying while Muslim

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Flying while Muslim or Muslim while flying is an expression referring to the problems Muslim passengers on airplanes can face in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. It is constructed in an analogy to the older expression driving while black, which similarly satirizes racial profiling of African Americans by police and other law enforcement.[1]


An early usage of the phrase is dated by 2001.[2]

The issue was brought to media attention in 2006 (see Flying Imams incident) when six Muslim imams were removed from a US Airways flight after they allegedly engaged in suspicious behavior reminiscent of that of the 9/11 hijackers.[3][4] Conservative commenters such as Ann Coulter and Robert Spencer argued that airlines have a right to treat Muslim passengers with suspicion as a consequence of Radical Islamist terrorism.[5][6][7]

In 2009 AirTran Airways removed nine Muslim passengers, including three children, from a flight and turned them over to the FBI after one of the men commented to another that they were sitting right next to the engines and wondered aloud where the safest place to sit on the plane was. Although the FBI subsequently cleared the passengers and called the incident a "misunderstanding," AirTran refused to seat the passengers on another flight, forcing them to purchase last minute tickets on another airline that had been secured with the FBI's assistance. A spokesman for AirTran initially defended the airline's actions and said they would not reimburse the passengers for the cost of the new tickets. Although the men had traditional beards and the women headscarves, AirTran denied that their actions were based on the passengers' appearance.[8] The following day, after the incident received widespread media coverage, AirTran reversed its position and issued a public apology, adding that it would in fact reimburse the passengers for the cost of their rebooked tickets.[9]

Southwest Airlines[edit]

On November 18, 2015, in two separate incidents, passengers at Midway Airport were allegedly not permitted to fly aboard Southwest Airlines flights when other passengers claimed to be afraid to fly with them because they were speaking Arabic, or appeared to be Muslim. The refusal sparked widespread condemnation on the airline's social media pages and received prominent coverage, in the US and internationally, accompanied by calls for a boycott of the airline.[10] According to The Economist, "in the two Southwest cases, it was the passengers themselves conducting their own vigilante profiling; the airline was merely bowing to their demands."[11]

On April 6, 2016 Southwest Airlines removed a passenger from a flight at Los Angeles International Airport for speaking Arabic before pushback.[12][13] The FBI detained the passenger, searched his belongings and questioned him for several hours.[14] A Southwest spokesperson declined to apologize and defended Southwest's decisions by saying "We will not be apologizing for following our obligation to adhere to established procedures".[15] The passenger, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, an Iraqi refugee later said that those actions were “playing straight into the rhetoric of the Islamic State — they fall into the trap.” and “That is when I couldn’t handle it and my eyes began to water... "the way they searched me and the dogs, the officers, people were watching me and the humiliation made me so afraid because it brought all of these memories back to me. I escaped Iraq because of the war, because of Saddam and what he did to my father.”[16][17]

On April 15, 2016 Southwest removed a Muslim passenger from a flight at Midway Airport after she traded seats with several other passengers.[18] A spokesperson from the Council on American–Islamic Relations called on Southwest to explain their actions and the passenger's husband said “She was humiliated because of her religion and the way she dressed”.[19][20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Islamic Activists Ask, Is There A 'flying While Muslim' Bias?". CBS News. 2007-02-13. Retrieved 2016-07-30. 
  2. ^ "I've faced both kinds of profiling: driving while black and flying while Muslim" in: "Metro Matters; Last Week, Profiling Was Wrong", Joyce Purnick, The New York Times, September 15, 2001
  3. ^ See suspicious acts Feel free to report them The Philadelphia Inquirer April 08 2007 Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "William Fisher: Not Flying While Muslim | Scoop News". Retrieved 2016-07-30. 
  5. ^ "What Can I Do to Make Your Flight More Uncomfortable?". Human Events. Retrieved 2016-07-30. 
  6. ^ "Muslim Imams: The New Rosa Parks?". Human Events. 2006-11-22. Retrieved 2016-07-30. 
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-09-08. Retrieved 2010-05-14. 
  8. ^ "9 Muslim Passengers Removed From Jet". 2009-01-02. Retrieved 2016-07-30. 
  9. ^ "Airline Apologizes For Booting 9 Muslim Passengers From Flight". 2009-01-03. Retrieved 2016-07-30. 
  10. ^ Lauren Gambino. "Southwest Airlines criticized after incidents involving Middle Eastern passengers". the Guardian. 
  11. ^ "Southwest Airlines accused of profiling Muslims". The Economist. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  12. ^ UC Berkeley student questioned, refused service after speaking Arabic on flight, MAYA ELIAHOU; APRIL 14, 2016 Daily Californian
  13. ^ College Student Is Removed From Flight After Speaking Arabic on Plane, LIAM STACK; APRIL 17, 2016 The New York Times
  14. ^ Devoe, Noelle (2016-04-20). "College Student Allegedly Yanked Off Airplane for Speaking Arabic on the Phone". Retrieved 2016-07-30. 
  15. ^ 'Flying While Muslim': Profiling Fears After Arabic Speaker Removed From Plane ; April 20, 2016
  16. ^ Southwest Airlines draws outrage over man removed for speaking Arabic The Guardian, Oliver Milman; Saturday 16 April 2016 17.41
  17. ^ Iraqi Refugee Kicked Off Plane for Speaking Arabic in L.A. Says Islamophobia Boosts ISIS, Robert Mackey; The Intercept; Apr. 18 2016, 1:34 p.m.
  18. ^ Muslim woman kicked off of Southwest flight after asking to switch seats for religious reasons, Meg Wagner New York Daily News Saturday, April 16, 2016, 3:47 PM
  19. ^ CAIR Calls For Probe After Maryland Muslim Woman Removed From Southwest Flight, George Solis, ; April 15, 2016 5:26 PM
  20. ^ Muslim woman kicked off plane as flight attendant said she 'did not feel comfortable' with the passenger, Rachael Reves; Friday 15 April 2016 The Independent

External links[edit]