• Sahar Abdulaziz

Plane Nonsense: Flying While Muslim Strikes Again!

Airplane Cabin

["FWM”- acronym for ‘Flying While Muslim’]

So, this past week I headed down to Florida to spend some time with my Dad. As usual, I have to mentally prepare myself while FWM because there’s always something- never had a trip yet that went without some kind of slight, comment or action that breaches good manners- or worse. This trip was no different.

Going through security at airports is always ‘fun’ for anyone, but when you are a Muslim woman, it often becomes fraught with disrespect. This time the culprit apparently was my bag of liquid toiletries, which for whatever non-reason became a major issue. Now, I think I should mention that I had made doubly sure to place all of my personal toiletries in the properly sized-airline-approved containers, in a clear Ziploc bag, but of course, that didn’t make one bit of a difference. As soon as I stepped up to security, all eyes were on me- guilt by perceived association.

I placed my belongings on the belt in the airport’s plastic tubs as instructed. Went through the machine and stood there as two security officers began ripping through my backpack. I was then informed by the head security officer, that he wanted to "discuss" my items after a woman security guard, looking like she found the Holy Grail, heatedly whispered her ‘alert’, pointing at me, head bobbing accusingly about my so-called ‘pending security breach’.

"I'll be waiting for you over here when you're done," Mr. Head of Security politely, but sternly said to me as I waited for the rest of my belongings to be finished being pawed through. And btw, this was after going through the machine, not ringing, getting patted down from head to toe by an extremely polite woman security guard who got 'the nod' from Mr. Head of Security, who then stood and watched less she miss anything.

Oh, and I was told “wearing a skirt was "also an issue” [huh?] so the security guard was told to again search me- this time each of my thighs, which had to be felt up, squeezed, along with my back, neck, my hips, back down my legs, my butt... Am I a customer or an inmate? Inquiring minds want to know…

Anyway, keeping my cool, I then politely asked Mr. Head of Security what the issue was with my toiletry bag’s contents. "Isn't everything in the proper sized containers?"- I asked-already knowing full well that they were.

At that, he harshly informed me that I was “only allowed one quart Ziploc bag of liquids.” (I had double bagged it. Everything was in a 1-qt bag, then that bag was placed into the regular sized Ziploc bag just in case anything opened, I would have no issues)

But wait! Not finding any problems, Mr. Security continued to make me stand there as he repeatedly turned the bag over and over, looking for some kind of breach. Finally, after determining that he could find nothing wrong, he brusquely said to me as if I was some indolent child, "Next time- don't put these non-liquid things in here!" pointing to two tiny containers of cream.

So I asked, "You don't consider a cream a liquid?"

He looked at me, pointed to it, confusion knitting his brow, "This here is a cream?" he asked.

"Yes it is," I answered him, keeping the sarcasm from dripping off my tongue.

He turned the bag over a few more times, now even more annoyed. I glanced over at the line of people watching, more than happy that Security was making sure this Muslim wasn’t going to get away with anything!

Finally he handed me back the bag, irritated, and repeatedly informing me not ‘to put non-liquids in the bag next time’, pointing his finger, indicating that I was asking for trouble, and reluctantly let me through.

Everyone behind me... No issues. Not the lady in the shorts that showed, well everything- and I do mean everything, or the woman with two carry-on bags packed to the brim of disaster, and certainly not even the guy who owned every electronic piece of equipment known to mankind. Those folks went right through. No fuss, no muss. Have a good flight!

Soon it was time to board the plane. As I made my way in, all eyes closely watched and studied me as I ambled down the aisle looking for my seat, and trying not to hit anyone by mistake in the head or shoulder with my bag. Some had expressions filled with pure unmasked fear, while others with unbridled hopefulness that I wasn’t going to be their seatmate. [Right back at ya!]

Finding my seat, I threw my backpack in the upper compartment, and plopped down. Thirsty or not, I better not ask for a can of coke- that might be pushing my luck.

Now, honestly, in the scheme of things, with what Muslims are experiencing daily, this was no big deal, except as a Muslim woman, these discourteous, impertinent, and biased machinations happen all the time. Picked out of a line, made into an example, reminded that I am, ‘the other’ and to make sure I remember to stay in line- or else.

Flying while Muslim strikes again.

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