Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Flying Imams Questioned

Six Islamic Imams were taken off a US Airways plane for questioning on Monday. They claim their detention and questioning were due to discrimination. The Imams had been attending a meeting of the North American Imams Federation in Minnesota. The Imam’s complaints are what I have heard emphasized.

If the television broadcasts I heard are to be believed, it seems there is probably more to the story.

It has been said that the Imams, though traveling together had seats in pairs spread evenly through the plan – two near the front, two in the back, and two in the middle. During their time at the airport, they were allegedly overheard making derogatory comments about the US. Once on the plan, two of the Imams demanded seat belt extensions that the flight crew believed they did not need. The extensions could have been used to bind crew members in the event of a takeover of the plane.

Under the circumstances of the current war, these factors, along with the instincts of an experienced flight crew, seem like probable cause for questioning to me. If no one had done anything and the plane had been hijacked, everyone looking back would have asked why nothing had been done in light of this suspicious pattern. While I hate the nuisance of heightened security, I realize it is necessary in the world in which we now live. The flight crew and officials of US Air and the TSA are to be congratulated for taking no chances. At worst this could have been a hijacking. But it could also be an exercise designed to probe and desensitize the airport security system. The response thwarted any such exercise.

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