After participating in a press conference against Islamophobia and in support of refugees, CAIR-Chicago held its second full house news conference of the day this past Friday. This time about Spirit & Southwest airlines and the recent string of Muslim-looking passengers being removed due to complaints by other passengers. We had already done many interviews on the matter but Spirit Airlines recently issued a statement claiming the removed passengers were non-compliant, so this time we had with us a brave eyewitness, Tilesha Northern, who stepped up to the plate to call out Spirit’s cover up; she witnessed full compliance and insists the issue was simply put: bias.
We made the following points clear in various media outlets:
“This is not about a petty back-and-forth with one airline. This is about a much larger issue. Houston, we have a problem that we must have a national conversation about instead of brushing it under the carpet with the pretense of security.
The problem is this: today, we are on the brink of instituting someone’s color, religion, or language spoken as an acceptable de facto standard of suspicious activity. It’s that simple.
We are here to say absolutely NOT.
On Spirit, four people were removed because one of them watched the news on their phone. On Southwest 1, two were refused to boarding because they spoke Arabic. On Southwest 2, six were denied boarding altogether because they looked Arab.
In all 3 cases, it was not direct airline bias, but bias from fellow passengers who complained and insisted the Arab/Muslim looking or sounding passengers be removed or denied boarding. However, in all 3 cases the airlines and security personnel complied with the passengers’ blatant bias as PROCEDURE.
And the news media for the most part let them off the hook under the pretense that they’re just doing their job, “see something say something” right?
But we are here to say something too. And that is: these were cases of “see nothing say something” and the current airline security procedures have zero contingencies for such cases.
These were cases of “non-suspicious” behavior treated like it was. Because what is REALLY being stated without being said and what they are tacitly asking us to accept is that a passenger’s skin color, language or religion is fair game as a criterion for suspicion in the aftermath of major terror news story.
Nope, sorry. We need a national conversation. We will not let you systemize prejudice under the cover of security.”
Help us lead the fight to ensure that being Muslim or looking Muslim is NOT a standard of suspicious behavior on a plan.