Friday, November 24, 2006

What's it coming to?

Imam Omar Shahin
Originally uploaded by sshiiq.
There's certainly going to be more about this incident in the days and weeks to come. This past Monday, Dr. Omar Shahin, a Phoenix resident, was removed from a US Airways flight in handcuffs. The charge? Praying aloud.

From an article at Newsweek by Jessica Bennett and Matthew Philips:
As a Muslim-American and president of the North American Imams Federation, Dr. Omar Shahin is no stranger to the heightened security of a post-9/11 world. On more than one occasion, the Phoenix, Ariz., resident says he’s been picked out of a crowd by the color of his skin—interrogated, finger printed or detained. So when Shahin headed to the airport Monday with five other imams for a flight out of Minneapolis—where the NAIF had met for a conference—the group did everything they could to avoid suspicion, according to Shahin. They wore Western clothes, he says. The men spoke only English. They didn’t book their seats together. And when it came time to conduct their sunset-time prayers, Shahin says, they did so quietly, and not all together—hoping to avoid any unwanted attention.

But when the group boarded their U.S. Airways flight bound for Phoenix, on which Shahin (a frequent flier on the airline) had been upgraded to first class, they would never leave the ground. After finding their seats and preparing for takeoff, Shahin and the other imams were escorted from the flight in handcuffs after a passenger handed a note to a flight attendant expressing concern over the group's “suspicious activity,” according to the airport police report. After several hours of questioning by federal authorities, the group was released. Yet though the airline refunded their tickets, U.S. Airways—which released a statement Tuesday saying it does "not tolerate discrimination of any kind"—reportedly denied them passage on any of its other flights and refused to help them obtain tickets through another airline.
Now, there seem to be a number of he-said, she-said issues. Were they flying on one-way tickets? Were they loudly chanting "Allah, Allah, Allah"? Did they "seated themselves in pairs, two at the front of the plane, two in the middle, and two in the rear"? (This is US Airways, right, not Southwest Airlines. I mean, they had tickets for the seats; they didn't "seat themselves.")

Anyway, they were taken off the plane after a "passenger handed a note to a flight attendant expressing concern over the group's 'suspicious activity.'" What a great way for me to sit next to an empty seat; just claim my seat mate is acting suspiciously.

The Newsweek article asks an important and relevant question: Observant American Muslims—who must pray five times daily—are left with a dilemma. How do they maintain their religious faith without attracting attention in an environment of heightened fear?


  1. They can leave America, which is obviously an evil place in their eyes, and return to a country that welcomes and embraces practitioners of Islam. Problem solved.

  2. Er, the last time I checked, America was a land that promoted freedom of religion. We ought to be a country that embraces all faiths.

  3. when a religion has a edict of
    "cut at their necks" in regards to
    jews, and christains.

    right out of th Quaran, then it
    needs to go home where it came from.

    3rd paragraph here:

    Quaran 47:4

    So Mr. Stinson, take a trip to the
    middle east and get you some of
    that Quaran culture and some of their
    idea of understanding and acceptance.

    I would say I am buying more ammo,
    but this country was sold down the
    river long ago, so when the civil war
    starts here I am not defending what
    the rich have done to this country
    all in the name of greed thru
    cheap foreign labor.

    Totally pathetic!

    I am sad to see the death of america,
    by the 21st century carpet baggers.

  4. My name is Oday Shahin. Son of Omar Shahin.

    If you have any questions to clear things up you can email me at