Muslims Put Off Plane in Memphis

Posted on May 8, 2011 by


Nabil Bayakly, chairman of Muslims in Memphis, said, “Both of them are good friends of mine, and I know how mild-mannered they are. I think the pilot has been really obstinate.”

“They are imams,” Bayakly said. “They are religious figures. They usually wear the traditional Muslim gowns and head covers. Just like what the pope would wear or the Orthodox Jew would wear.”

What really happened on that flight?  Were these men conducting themselves in way that made other passengers uncomfortable?  Were their actions obnoxious or dubious?  We might not ever know but, these questions have answers.  As an after thought, there’s another question that weights heavy on my mind: Do we really care?  I do think so; I take this situation lightly as a personal decision of the pilot.  I also think that Nabil’s word “obstinate” is a poor choice and hangs on a thread of arrogance.

I don’t see this as an attack on Muslims, Al-Islam, or as a sign of heighten fears in the aftermath of Osama bin Ladin’s assassination.  Look, let’s be real about this; we’re Americans, you can get thrown out of anything.  We’ve thrown each other out of cabs, buses, hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, trains, you name it.  If one is thrown off an airplane then, that’s the biggest throw off of all.  Now, it’s against the law to throw someone out because of religion, race, national origin, sex, age, handicap, sexual orientation, or color of skin. These guys were thrown off the plane; they should dust themselves off, complain, change air service, and get over it.

Nabil expressed his thoughts about this traditional (Muslim) religious garb but, in reality it’s not religious at all; it’s traditional and not “traditional Muslim” at all.  And, it’s absolutely not equal to the pope’s garb or that of the orthodox Jews.  All Muslim don’t wear the same style of clothing; everyday to every affair.  Wearing these traditional clothing isn’t a sign of ones religious conviction; in fact, no apparel does that.

Many years ago before the attack on 9/11; an African guess and dignitary, Cheikh Hasan Cisse of Senegal, West African visited Memphis for the first time.  Security wanted to search his traditional belongings I objected for two reasons; one, this man was a diplomat and two, these belongings were carried with him for religious reasons, they were religious books and artifacts among other things passed down to him by his ancestors for hundreds of years that he carried with him everywhere in world.

Cheikh Cisse agreed to allow security to search this bag.  Later, I wrote a letter to the Airport’s President and administration.  They wrote back a very apologetic response and ask that I let them know when Cheikh Hasan Cisse arrives in Memphis.  I’ll stand with the Memphis International Airport any day on this issue.