The airline industry needs to train their airplane crew members and should penalize them if they object to flying passengers from a certain community which almost always happens to be Muslims. In a recent incident, the air hostess said she was not comfortable with a Muslim passenger on-board. Had she said the same about a person’s skin color or sexual orientation, she would have been fired from her job. Of course there have been incidents earlier due to which there could be uneasiness but remember the airport securities have increased due to that and there is no reason why someone should be removed from flying to destinations. It is becoming increasingly easy for airlines to kick passengers off their flights. Some of the recent reasons which saw passengers unceremoniously kicked off flights include:
- Reading a book about Syria
- Making a phone call to an uncle in Iraq
- Wearing a hijab or Islamic head dress
- Texting to tell wife the flight is delayed (in Arabic)
- Sweating on flight
- Asking for an unopened can of beverage
- Speaking in language other than English
It would not be surprising to know that all pertain to Muslim passengers. ‘Flying while Muslim’ is a term being used tongue-in-cheek to describe the perils, drama and delays associated with either being Muslim or being assumed a Muslim (an issue affecting Sikh men who wear the traditional turban).
The extra security checks, extended questioning lasting up to 9 hours, missed flights and non-reimbursed ticket prices posed such a problem in England, that Glasgow airport faced a boycott from Muslim passengers in 2012. Ethnic minorities, Asians and non-White people were identified as 42 times more likely to be detained at airports. Last year England passed legislation which specifically directs officers at airports to monitor how they choose passengers for extra checks and questioning:
- paragraph 18 extract – ‘Examining officers must take particular care to ensure that the selection of persons for examination is not solely based on their background or religion.’
- paragraph 19 extract – ‘A person’s ethnic background or religion must not be used alone or in combination with each other as the sole reason for selecting the person for examination.’ (Revised Schedule 7 of the European Convention of Human Rights)
While no one would logically refuse to checked or questioned for their own safety as passengers, the issue remains one of stereotyping and racial/ethnic prejudice. This issue is not likely to go away and is one the airline industry would do well to take a good hard look at.