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Archive for category PAKISTANI AMERICANS

I didn’t realize how often Muslims get kicked off planes, until it happened to me Niala Mohammad, The Guardian

I didn’t realize how often Muslims get kicked off planes until it happened to me

A humiliating experience opened my eyes to discrimination that has become common in post-9/11 America under the pretext of safety and security

 
 
My friend and I were removed from an American Airlines flight for requesting water and asking why we were still aboard an idling plane.
My friend and I were removed from an American Airlines flight for requesting water and asking why we were still aboard an idling plane. Photograph: Courtesy of Niala Mohammad

A recent news report documented the removal of two Muslim women working for the federal government from an American Airline flight. On its surface, the airline staff appeared to be upholding safety regulations, but in reality, they were engaging in discriminatory practices. I know this to be true because I was one of the two women. We were removed from the plane for doing nothing more than requesting water and asking why we were still aboard an idling plane for more than five hours.

Although the incident was humiliating it was also eye-opening. Until it happened to me, neither my friend nor I had realised how common this trend had become. Passengers are removed from an aircraft for benign reasons such as asking for a beverage, a child harness, speaking a foreign language, changing or upgrading seats, taking pictures, making videos, or questioning a long delay. It isn’t just about what happened to me – increasingly Muslims are a part of a cycle of discrimination that targets them due to their appearance.

American Airlines states that they prohibit “discrimination of any kind” and ensure that their “policies require that we treat all our customers in a fair and courteous manner and discrimination due to race, ethnicity, religion, or skin colour is not tolerated”. However, this was not reflected in the treatment that I and other passengers received.

Shan Anand, a young, turbaned, Sikh man along with three of his Muslim friends were removed from an American Airlines flight travelling from Toronto to New York earlier this year. When I asked Shan why he thought he and his friends were removed from the flight he said: “We know why it happened, right? There were four of us, three are Muslim and I am Sikh.” When Shan and his friends asked American Airlines why they were removed, they were told: “There were inconsistencies of their behaviour travelling as a group.” But the explanation made no sense to Shan – he was travelling in a group of six with two Latinos, three South Asians and one Arab, yet only the South Asians and Arab were removed. Shan and his travel companions were told that “the crew felt unsafe”.

“Unsafe”: a trigger word commonly used as an excuse by airlines under the pretext of ensuring safety and security post-9/11. Nearly all Muslims have at some point been subject to secondary security screening selection, but being thrown off a plane was an entirely new level of humiliation for me.

Measuring discrimination

Khurram Ali, the former civil rights director for the Council on American-Islamic Relation’s (CAIR’s) New Jersey chapter, explains that the pilot of an aircraft is given a list of those passengers that are marked with the infamous SSSS on their boarding pass. The SSSS or *S* indicates someone needs to be scrutinised a bit further by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). And although it is unknown if airline attendants have access to the names labelled SSSS by TSA on domestic flights, they do have access to their respective airline computer reservation system, which details passenger name and detailed information.

Although there is no published criteria used to select passengers for “random selection” or “suspicion”, Ali says: “It is happening to more and more people who are considered visibly Muslim.” Ali documented 27 airline discrimination complaint cases with three of those being “pulled off” or airline removal cases for CAIR’s New Jersey chapter during his short tenure. But as he pointed out, those numbers come nowhere near the amount being documented by CAIR on a national level.

CAIR has been fairly thorough in its documentation of discrimination against American Muslims, however, it is still in the process of aggregating data regarding Muslim airline passengers being “pulled off” planes. Corey Saylor, CAIR’s director of the department to monitor and combat Islamophobia, acknowledged that they “are seeing more airline cases”. But in regards to statistics, Saylor stated: “We do not have stats as of yet. We are working on it.”

The only cases the public is aware of are those documented in the media. I counted nine airline passenger removal cases involving American Muslims published in the media over the past 13 months. But if that isn’t indicative enough, just look at trending hashtags on social media like #FlyingWhileMuslim to understand and confirm the reality of rising discrimination.

The official reasons for removal of these passengers are all in relation to safety and security concerns. But there is no mistaking this trend toward discrimination of Muslims.. Here are a few examples:

  • Mohamed Ahmed Radwan made the flight attendant feel “uncomfortable” when he asked her why she called him out over the public tannoy with the words I will be watching you”. (American Airlines, December 2015)
  • Shan Anand (quoted above), a turbaned Sikh man, and three of his Muslim friends were removed for making the airline attendant and captain “feel uneasy” after they upgraded their seats. (American Airlines, December 2015)
  • Khairuldeen Makhzoom, a Berkley student, was removed after he was heard saying the phrase “inshallah” in Arabic at the end of a telephone conversation. (Southwest Airlines, December 2015)
  • Hakima Abdulle, a hijabi woman, made her aircraft flight attendant “feel uncomfortable” after switching seats with another passenger. (Southwest Airlines, April 2016)
  • Mohamad and Eaman Shebley (also hijabi) along with their three children were removed from their flight due to a “safety of flight issue” after asking for a child harness for their toddler. (United Airlines, April 2016)
  • Nazia (hijabi) and Faisal Ali, a young couple, were removed for making the flight crew feel “uneasy” because her husband was sweating, saying Allah and texting. (Delta Airlines, July 2016)

Many instances have gone undocumented due to fear of victims being further targeted, labelled troublemakers and being put on a “no-fly” list. The silent acceptance of these incidents has enabled airlines to dismiss the arbitrary treatment of select passengers as compliance with airline security regulations post-9/11. This policy is not effective and ultimately makes Americans feel marginalised in our own country.

Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, or Mark for those that have trouble pronouncing his name, recalls his experience with Southwest Airlines as “tearful and humiliating”. Makhzoomi came to America after his father was executed in Iraq by Saddam Hussain: “I experienced dictatorship in Iraq and now I am experiencing it in the freest country in the world.”

The discrimination Khairuldeen faced in Oakland, California, was anything but subtle. Khairuldeen detailed how he was removed from the aircraft, questioned by airline representatives and security, cornered against a wall, searched, sniffed by dogs in public and later interrogated privately by the FBI. Southwest Airlines representative and the authorities that removed him from the plane berated him for having spoken Arabic aboard the aircraft. Khairuldeen recalled the Southwest Airlines representative, stating: “Why would you speak that language knowing the environment in an airport?”

Khairuldeen said: “I was excited because we were talking about my upcoming graduation from UC Berkley, saying ‘inshallah’. You know, we use this word 30 to 40 times in any given conversation.” The rest of Khairuldeen’s conversation revolved around what they served for dinner at an event he attended which hosted the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon. “I was telling my uncle that they served us chicken, mash potatoes and spinach for dinner at the event,” said Makhzoomi. Yet the authorities that escorted him and claimed to understand Arabic, accused him of “discussing martyrdom” in his telephone conversation.

An atmosphere of fear

Cenk Uygur, political commentator and co-founder of the Young Turks, believes that this issue goes beyond discrimination towards Muslims in particular. Uygur was also kicked off of an American Airlines flight but he doesn’t believe it was because of religion. “Was it religious? In my case, I don’t think it was racially motivated.” Uygur believes that the root of the matter boils down to power and compared airline attendant behaviour toward Muslims since 9/11 to police officers abusing their authority and using excessive force on African Americans. “After 9/11 airlines/flight attendants have taken up the ‘I can do whatever I want attitude’ in the name of security,” Uygur says. “In my opinion, the core of the problem is flight attendants are given unlimited power and they tend to abuse it. They tend to use their power on those they perceive to be powerless. And unfortunately, in America, the darker the skin colour the more powerless you are. And many Muslims tend to fit in that category.”

He adds: “By the way, it’s much harder on women because they are more visibly Muslim and they often bear the brunt of the burden of Islamophobia or discrimination.

“Donald Trump has given people permission to be Islamophobic and told them that it’s okay to discriminate against Muslims. Trump basically says, ‘If I become president I will systematically discriminate against them [Muslims],’” Uygur says.

Likewise, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi attributed the recent rise in discrimination towards Muslims to Donald Trump, saying, “Trump is using ‘Islamophobia’ to rise to political power.”

Trump’s statements have fostered and further instigated an atmosphere of fear and prejudice towards the estimated 6-7 million Muslims in America.

I’m an American and being labelled a safety threat is unacceptable in a country founded on tolerance and freedom.

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ULTIMATE SACRIFICES FOR AMERICA BY YOUNG PAKISTANIS AMERICAN MUSLIM : LEST WE FORGET

Humayun Saqib Muazzam Khan 
Captain, United States Army
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense 
No. 561-04 
IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
June 9, 2004 
Media Contact: Army Public Affairs – (703) 692-2000 Public/Industry Contact: (703) 428-0711

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Captain Humayun S. M. Khan, 27, of Bristow, Virginia, died June 8, 2004, in Baquabah, Iraq, after a vehicle packed with an improvised explosive device drove into the gate of his compound while he was inspecting soldiers on guard duty.  Khan was assigned to Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 201st Forward Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, Vilseck, Germany.

The incidents are under investigation.

For further information related to this release, contact Army Public Affairs at (703) 692-2000.


Funeral For Pakistani-American U.S. Army Officer Held 
June 17, 2004

DCM Mohammad Sadiq and interns from the Embassy of Pakistan Tuesday evening attended the funeral of Captain Humayun Saqib Khan held at the Arlington National Cemetery, says an Embassy press release.

He was laid to rest with full military honors. Captain Khan was a Pakistani American who served in the U.S. army as an ordnance officer, being the senior-most community member to die in Iraq. His colleagues and superiors remembered him for his courage, honesty, sense of humor and grace while in the field, even under pressure. Captain Khan’s colleagues eulogized his exemplary services and praised him for the leadership he provided to his troops.

The Muslim chaplain who led the Nimaz-e-Janaza after the military honors, specifically highlighted the ethnically-diverse group that had come to pay its respects to Captain Khan. He was one amongst the growing number of Pakistani Americans in the U.S. Army.


A ‘Peacemaker’ Is Laid to Rest 
Muslim Soldier From Prince William Tried to Improve Relations in Iraq 
By Michele Clock 
Courtesy of the Washington Post 
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Army Captain Humayun Khan tried to reassure his parents in Prince William County, Maryland, that he was safe — even though attacks on his base in Baquba, Iraq, were almost constant.

“Whenever I talked to him, I started to cry,” said his mother, Ghazala Khan, 52. “He always said to me, ‘Don’t worry. I’m safe.’ “

The last time she spoke to her 27-year-old son was Mother’s Day, May 9. Yesterday, under the hot midday sun, she and her husband, Khizr M. Khan, 53, watched as their middle son was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

Khan’s was the 66th casualty of the Iraq war to be buried on the cemetery’s lush, manicured hills. His flag-draped wood coffin was placed at the end of a row of marble headstones.

On June 8, Khan died in a suicide car bombing at the main gates of his base. Khan, an ordnance officer with the Germany-based 201st Forward Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, had watched as several of his soldiers prepared to do a routine vehicle inspection. His unit was charged with the day-to-day security and maintenance of the camp.

When an orange-colored taxi drove toward them, Khan ordered his soldiers to “hit the dirt,” said his father, who received details of his son’s death from his commanding officer.

Khan walked toward the car, motioning for it to stop, his father said. A makeshift bomb inside it exploded, killing him and two Iraqi civilians in addition to the two suicide bombers. Ten soldiers and six Iraqi citizens were also wounded, the Army said.

Khan’s father said he is proud of his son’s courage but is devastated by the loss.

“Where did his strength come from to face such a danger instead of hiding behind a pole or booth or something?” his father said. “Normally we would try to hide. Had he done that, there would be no problem at all. It may have not been fatal.”

Family members and friends — including Khan’s girlfriend, Irene Auer, 24, of Amberg, Germany — have filled the Khans’ Bristow home in the past week, weeping and praying for the Muslim soldier they will remember as helping to build a bridge between the American and Iraqi people.

During his three months in Iraq, Khan helped put Iraqi civilians to work for $5 an hour patrolling the streets of Baquba under the U.S. Army, his father said.

The program, dubbed the United States-Iraq Sponsorship Program, was intended to help combat high unemployment and provide the local population with security and peace, his father said.

“He was always a peacemaker,” Khizr Khan said, “always seeing an opportunity to give. He always said to the Iraqis, ‘We’re here not to hurt you but to help you.’ “

Auer said her boyfriend enjoyed taking responsibility for others and always respected those around him.

“Whenever I was upset, he always found the right words. He always calmed me down,” she said. “He was perfect. He was the most wonderful person I’ve ever met.”

Khan had hoped one day to go to the University of Virginia law school, his father said. He wanted to be a military lawyer and joined up four years ago in part to pay for law school. His stint was up last month, but because of the Army’s efforts to stem its manpower losses, he was assigned to Iraq indefinitely.

Khan, who was born in the United Arab Emirates, moved to Silver Spring at age 2. He graduated from Kennedy High School in 1996 and the University of Virginia in 2000.

Yesterday, he received full military honors. Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Kerr, an Army chaplain, read a letter written by Khan’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dan Mitchell.

“He died selflessly and courageously, tackling the enemy head on,” Mitchell wrote. “We will not forget him and the noble ideas he stood for.”

Khan was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Sergeant First Class Robert J. Mogensen of Leesville, Louisiana, was also buried yesterday at Arlington. He was a member of the Army’s Special Forces who was killed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on May 29, 2004. His funeral was closed to the media, cemetery officials said.

HSM Khan Funeral Service PHOTO


HSM Khan Gravesite PHOTO 
Photo Courtesy of Holly, August 2005

KHAN, HUMAYUN SAQIB MUAZZAM 
CPT   US ARMY 
DATE OF BIRTH: 09/09/1976 
DATE OF DEATH: 06/08/2004 
BURIED AT: SECTION 60  SITE 7986 
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY

Webmaster: Michael Robert Patterson


Posted: 16 June 2004  Updated: 4 December 2004 Updated: 21 August 2005 Updated: 18 December 2005 Updated: 13 May 2008 Updated: 11 October 2008
Bronze Star Medal

 

Purple Heart Medal

HSM Khan Gravesite PHOTO May 2008 
Photo By Michael Robert Patterson, May 2008

HSM Khan Gravesite PHOTO 
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 2 December 2004

Family members of slain American Muslim soldiers should testify at Rep. Pete King’s hearings

Written by  MICHAEL DALY DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

  • The first witnesses at Rep. Peter King’s hearings on Muslims in America should be the family and comrades of Army Spec. Azhar Ali of Queens.

The witnesses could recount how Ali came to America from Pakistan when he was 14 and died at 27 serving his country in Iraq as a member of New Yorks famous Fighting 69th.

The father, Mubarak Ali, could repeat for the House Homeland Security Committee what he said as he stood beside his son’s plain wood coffin in the Islamic Burial funeral parlor in Queens that March day in 2005.

“When I heard he was going to Iraq for America, I was proud…He died for a great cause.”

The father could also recount how he and his wife were presented at the graveside with a folded flag of their son’s adopted country along with four medals, including a Bronze Star.

The presiding imam, Zameer Sattaur, could recite the prayer he offered, the words springing from the true heart of Islam.

 

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