“Flying while looking like a Muslim” may cause you to be refused boarding

Posted on August 24, 2013

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It is no longer a question of whether you are “flying while Muslim”; it is now whether you are “flying while looking like a Muslim.” Either way, you run the risk of being profiled, harassed, monitored closely, and possibly refused to board your flight.

Hindu Man Mistaken for Muslim Refused Service by JetBlue

Source: Neetzan Zimmerman, Gawkers.com

New York-based data scientist Aditya Mukerjee admits that his physical appearance regularly ensures that he’ll get hassled by airport security, but none of his past experiences with being “randomly selected” could have prepared him for the nightmare that ensued following a standard TSA pat-down earlier this month.

While heading to Los Angeles for an annual family “pilgrimage” during which Mukerjee, who is Hindu, spends a week “visiting temples, praying,” and generally enjoying the company of his friends and relatives, Mukerjee decided to opt out of the millimeter wave detectors — something he says he always does — and submit to a pat-down instead.

During the procedure, Mukerjee’s hands were swabbed with a “cotton-like material” used to check for explosive residue.

For a reason that remains unclear to this day, Mukerjee’s sample caused the machine to beep, which in turn set off a chain reaction of events that resulted in a terrifying post on Mukerjee’s Tumblr entitled “Don’t Fly During Ramadan.”

The week of August 3rd this year just so happened to be the last week of Ramadan.

During a private pat-down, which Mukerjee was extremely reticent to allow but was given no choice, a TSA agent asked Mukerjee about his trip, which ultimately resulted in the response, “we’ll be visiting some temples.”

Between the detention for hours without food or water, the rough interrogation, and the increasingly worrisome encounters with agents from nearly every federal law enforcement agency, the thing that upset Mukerjee the most was how his airline, JetBlue, reacted once they arrived at the impression that he was a Muslim.

As they patted me down for the fourth time, a female TSA agent asked me for my baggage claim ticket. I handed it to her, and she told me that a woman from JetBlue corporate security needed to ask me some questions as well. I was a bit surprised, but agreed. After the pat-down, the JetBlue representative walked in and cooly introduced herself by name.

She explained, “We have some questions for you to determine whether or not you’re permitted to fly today. Have you flown on JetBlue before?”

“Yes”

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