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Flying while Muslim or Muslim while flying, is an expression referring to the problems Muslim passengers on airplanes can face in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. It is constructed in an analogy to the older expression walking/driving while black, which similarly satirizes racial profiling of black people by police and other law enforcement. [1]

An early usage of the phrase is dated by 2001.[2]

The issue was brought to media attention once more in 2006 when six Muslim imams were removed from a US Airways flight after they allegedly engaged in suspicious behavior reminiscent of that of the 9/11 hijackers.[3][4] Conservative pundits such as Ann Coulter and Robert Spencer argued that airlines have a right to treat Muslim passengers with suspicion as a consequence of Islamist terrorism.[5] Omar Shahin, one of the six imams, countered that such fears were unfounded. "All the evidence shows that those involved in this terrorist act [9/11] were not true Muslims" he said. [6]

In 2009 AirTran Airways removed nine Muslim passengers, including three children, from a flight and turned them over to the FBI after one of the men commented to another that they were sitting right next to the engines and wondered aloud where the safest place to sit on the plane was. Although the FBI subsequently cleared the passengers and called the incident a "misunderstanding," AirTran refused to seat the passengers on another flight, forcing them to purchase last minute tickets on another airline that had been secured with the FBI's assistance. A spokesman for AirTran initially defended the airline's actions and said they would not reimburse the passengers for the cost of the new tickets. Although the men had traditional beards and the women headscarves, AirTran denied that their actions were based on the passengers' appearance.[7] The following day, after the incident received widespread media coverage, AirTran reversed its position and issued a public apology, adding that it would in fact reimburse the passengers for the cost of their rebooked tickets.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Islamic Activists Ask, Is There A 'flying While Muslim' Bias?
  2. ^ "I've faced both kinds of profiling: driving while black and flying while Muslim" in: "Metro Matters; Last Week, Profiling Was Wrong" by Joyce Purnick, The New York Times, September 15, 2001
  3. ^ See suspicious acts Feel free to report them The Philadelphia Inquirer April 08 2007
  4. ^ "Not Flying While Muslim" by William Fisher (opinion piece).
  5. ^ "What Can I Do to Make Your Flight More Uncomfortable?" by Ann Coulter; "Muslim Imams: The New Rosa Parks?" by Robert Spencer.
  6. ^ "Imam disputes tie to Hamas" , The Washington Times, December 1, 2006
  7. ^ 9 Muslim Passengers Removed From Jet
  8. ^ Airline Offers Apology Over Detained Muslim Passengers

External links



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