SOUTHWEST Airlines has come under fire for its supposedly targeting Muslim flyers. In one incident last week, reported by NBC, Anas Ayyad, who runs a pizza restaurant in Philadelphia, and his friend Maher Khalil, were asked to step aside before boarding the plane. The problem was caused when a fellow passenger, who had heard them talking in Arabic, claimed to be too afraid to fly with them. When they learnt that they would be denied entry onto the flight, Mr Khalil telephoned 911. “I didn’t know what to do, so I called the cops,” NBC reports Mr Khalil as having said. The pair were later allowed back on board.
That incident followed another last week in which six people of Middle Eastern descent were reportedly ejected from a Southwest flight after, according to ABC, they had asked passengers around them whether they could swap seats so that the group could sit together. This apparently raised other passengers’ concerns. Those flyers were re-booked on a later flight.
That air travellers feel spooked at the moment is understandable. Still, it must be worse for people who feel the eyes of their fellow passengers skewer them with suspicion. As Ahmed Rehab of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, quoted in the Guardian, says: “The threshold for ‘see something, say something’ is meant to apply to suspicious behaviour, not personal prejudices against minorities engaging in non-suspicious behaviour.” The paper also makes the excellent point that, at a time when a calm and level-headed response is required, two Republican presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, seem determined to make political capital by stoking hysteria. Mr Trump’s call for a database of all Muslim Americans, so that they may be more easily tracked, is not helpful.