<%-- Page Title--%> Reflections <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 124 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

September 26, 2003

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Post 9/11

A License to Discriminate


After an eighteen-hour flight Munira, a Bangladeshi woman, finally arrived at Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. heaving a sigh of relief. She took out her Green Card and held it out to the unsmiling immigration officer in front of her but he was busy thumbing through her passport.

Not looking up he said “You have a visa for Saudi Arabia.”
Munira's heart stopped. “Yes I went to Mecca for my umrah.”
“What's that,” the officer asked
“It's a mini-hajj,” she replied. “I…”
“What do you do there,” the officer curtly interrupted.
“Sorry,” she asked, flabbergasted.
“Do you pray in Arabic?” the officer insisted.
“I, uh yes…” she said.
“Step into that room for questioning. NEXT…” the officer called out.
“But I have a Green Card…” she started.
“What did I just say? Do you understand English?” the officer snapped.

Munira went into the little room and stayed there for two hours while the immigration officers questioned her. When they finally let her go, she was exhausted from all the crying she had done…

It has been two years since September 11th a day that will forever play over and over again in peoples' minds. Over three thousand people lost their lives. It is a day that the United States of America is not likely to forget any time soon. The atmosphere on that day was a mix of confusion, shell shock, paranoia and hysteria. Scenes flashed before our eyes on the T.V. screen: the second plane hitting one of the towers, people screaming and running all over the streets of downtown New York, the proud and stately twin towers slowly crumbling to the ground and eventually reduced to a gigantic pile of rubble and debris--an omen for the world. It has been two years since September 11th, but how the world has changed.

Apart from racial profiling which is no longer a violation of human rights, but a 'precautionary measure' in the U.S., the most significant impact that September 11th has had is probably most salient in our travel experiences. Airport authorities are as rude and unreasonable as ever because they are now able to play God without any limits to their prejudices. Be it during immigration, security check, or even on transit, there is no limit to the harassment that Muslim people face while travelling, more often in the United States than anywhere else.

I was running late as I hurried through JFK International Airport. The flight to London was in less than an hour. I had already been questioned for twenty minutes during check-in, and stopped for a “random search” in which they completely unpacked all my suitcases, rummaging through every article of clothing. After all, maybe I had hidden a bomb in my underwear.

I stopped at security check and put my bags on the conveyor belt. I thought this would be easy enough. I had made sure I didn't have a single scrap of metal on me when I was getting dressed, not even jewellery. I had double-checked my hand luggage to make sure that I had nothing suspicious so that I would not be searched unnecessarily. I should have known better. As I walked through the metal detector a security officer indicated to me.

“Please unbutton the first button of your jeans,” the lady said.
“Excuse me,” I asked, dumbfounded.
“And take off your shoes and sweater, thank you,” the lady continued as if not hearing me.
“Can I go into a room or something for this,” I asked, not wanting to be mauled in public.
“No this will only take a few minutes,” she replied.

I stood there, barefoot, jeans undone, feeling humiliated as the woman proceeded to put her hands wherever she deemed necessary. I could not help but notice that no white people were being asked to stop and take off their clothes for “security purposes.”

When the officer was done searching I walked back to the conveyor belt and reached for my purse. A hand shot out and grabbed my wrist.

“Did I say you could take that,” a man snapped at me.
“Sorry,” I mumbled.
“Take out all the items in your bag one by one and show them to me,” he said.
“Sir I don't mean to be rude but my flight is boarding in less than half an hour,” I pleaded, panicked.
“Then you had better hurry,” the man said nastily.

I heard the people around me laughing. I was so angry I was shaking, but over here I was at their mercy. Accepting defeat I did what the man asked without another word and made it on my flight with only minutes to spare…

It is plain to see that the war against terrorism is in full swing. The new world order's plan of action is simple: feed into paranoia and ignorance, target anyone and everyone who fits a certain profile with regards to their names and backgrounds and isolate the Muslim population all over the world. It is understandable that the US government and other countries are trying to take extra precautionary measures but is this kind of blatant discrimination and harassment really necessary? And who can we really blame at the end of the day: An ignorant President and his equally ignorant cronies, or those genius fifteen suicide hijackers who changed the world in a day, and made life even more difficult for their fellow Muslim brothers and sisters?



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