2007-05-25 / Editorial/Opinion

From the Editor's Desk

C'mon, Give Me A Break!
Commentary By Howard Schwach

Commentary By Howard Schwach

It should be clear to anybody who understands the situation that the Circuit City worker who was asked to duplicate a tape that showed Muslim men shooting automatic weapons and screaming praises to Allah is a hero for calling authorities and perhaps stopping some horrific terrorist activity.

If not for that man, the Muslims might well have attacked Fort Dix in New Jersey and killed dozens, if not hundreds, of servicemen training to go to Iraq.

Because of situations such as that one, I believe in racial profiling. If the last five people who tried to kill you fit a single profile, you're going to be very careful around other people who fit that same profile.

Had that worker ignored that tape out of some sense of political correctness because the men were Muslim, the end of the story, in which the Muslims were arrested by federal agents, would have been very different. What he did was surely racial profiling, but it just as surely saved lives.

Every man who participated in the 9/11 atrocities was a Muslim. Every one of the people who took part in the bombings in England and in Spain were Muslim. The people who were stupid enough to ask an outsider to make copies of their tape were Muslim.

That leads me to the controversy over US Airways Flight 600, non-stop from Minneapolis - St. Paul to Phoenix in late November of last year.

The passengers, including six Imams boarded the plane about 6:30 p.m.

A passenger initially raised concerns when the men began moving from seat to seat, exchanging seats and then moving once again. Several of them asked for the heavily-buckled seat belt extensions that they clearly did not need. The passenger noted all those things, thought of 9/11 and handed a note to one of the flight attendants, who took it to the plane's captain.

Three of the men then stood and faced east, chanting loudly in Arabic.

The passengers got nervous and called for the plane's captain to do something.

The captain called airport security workers who boarded the plane and asked the six men nicely to leave the aircraft.

They refused, and police officers and security personnel removed them forcibly.

All of the other 141 passengers were made to leave the plane as well. They were rescreened and then allowed to reboard the plane and it eventually took off without the six Muslims.

As it turns out, the men were Muslim scholars returning from a conference in Minneapolis. Five were from the Phoenix area, the other from California.

The six were angry believing that they were discriminated against simply because they were Muslim.

"They took us off the plane and humiliated us in a very disrespectful way," one of the men said later.

A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations chimed in by saying, "We are going to determine whether the incident was caused by anti-Muslim hysteria by the passengers and/or the crew," the spokesperson said. "Unfortunately, this is a growing problem of singling out Muslims or people perceived to be Muslims at airports, and it's a problem that we've been addressing for some time."

If he wonders why there is "an anti-Muslim hysteria in America, he has only to replay the tapes from September 11, 2001 to find the reason.

The passengers and crew all described what they saw as "ominous." I believe that it was more the moving around and the whispers than the praying that sparked the incident, but I was not there. Had I been, however, I believe I would have done the same thing as the passenger who gave the note to the attendant. You can't wait for explanations or absolute truth in such situations. You might well be long blown up or shot before you get that.

Suppose the man who was dubbing the tape had felt that he was somehow singling out Muslims by telling authorities about the tape. What would have happened then? Another terrorist attack? More innocent people killed by Muslim fanatics who think that anybody who is not a follower of Mohammed deserves to die?

The government urges us to let authorities know when we see something suspicious and that's just what those passengers did.

Just last week, a driver parked in the parking lot at the southern end of the North Channel Bridge that connects Howard Beach to Broad Channel saw a "middle eastern woman" getting out of a car and throwing bundles into Jamaica Bay, right across from JFK Airport.

When the woman was challenged, she threw a package into a trashcan and quickly drove away.

Police were called and the area was roped off. Police put out a description of the car and other officers looked for her in Howard Beach and other local areas.

The NYPD's Emergency Service Unit responded and gingerly checked the package, which turned out to be cloths soaked with wet flour.

Police said that some Indian sects bury their pets by placing them in cloths with flour and then placing them in bodies of water. The suspicion was that the incident was somehow involved in that belief.

Had they caught the woman at the scene, could she have charged that the police were using a racial profile to stop and question her about what looked like, by anybody's book, suspicious behavior?

In any case, the six Imams sued not only the airline, but the person who handed the note to the flight attendant.

They said that the passengers had no reason to be nervous or suspicious, that their actions were completely normal and it was only because they are Muslim that they were mistreated.

Give me a break.

They're lucky, given the circumstances, that the passengers didn't jump them and beat them to the ground, as they did with the infamous shoe bomber, Richard Reade.

The actions of the Imams were ominous and, given the events of 9/11 on other airplanes just like that one, it is not surprising that the passengers wanted them off the plane.

Lawmakers in many states, as well as in the federal government have rushed to pass laws insulating from civil action those who point to the actions of others as "ominous."

As the old saying goes, "It's better to be judged by 12 than be carried by six."

People who genuinely believe that the actions of another are suspicious, whether they are Muslim or African-American or Hispanic or Jewish or whatever, should have the absolute right to tell the authorities what they believe without fear of lawsuit or retribution.

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Thank you Howard. Well put


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