Flying While Arab: Two Passengers Removed From Boston Flight After Speaking Arabic

220px-Gag-overthemouth-lorelei-kibf903In the aftermath of the explosion in Boston, Muslims again appear the target of arbitrary suspicion and detention. On a flight from Boston to Chicago, passengers became alarmed when two different passengers were heard speaking in Arabic. The two passengers were not traveling or seated together but the flight crew returned to the gate to have the two passengers detained.

Several passengers were marathoners. The two men were removed from the plane and detained . . . for speaking one of the most common languages on Earth.

Putting aside the prejudice in the treatment of Arabic speakers, it is illogical to think that terrorists would speak in Arabic if they were truly going to harm passengers. True terrorists try to blend in with population.

The airline bears responsibility for this conduct. There should be more than simply speaking Arabic to have a plane returned to the gate and passengers detained.

Just for the record, estimates indicate that there are 422 million Arabic speakers in this world.  I am not sure what is required from Arabic speaking people? Should they simply not speak in public while traveling in the United States to avoid security alerts and detention?


119 thoughts on “Flying While Arab: Two Passengers Removed From Boston Flight After Speaking Arabic”

  1. Bron:

    There are parallels in Britain.
    Youth born and raised there, but embedded in a community of hatred.
    It does take its toll.

  2. SLING:

    I think radicalized is the appropriate term unless they were on drugs like Dillon and Clebold.

  3. Sling:
    You wanna nitpick?
    I originally said:
    “Based on that analysis, I would predict when our authorities find out who did this, it will be foreign in influence if not directly non-nationals.”

    Read the freekin posts on this thread.

  4. how did he get radicalized?

    I think “disaffected” might be more accurate than “radicalized”.

    This pair may have more in common with loner ‘school shooters’ than with terrorists on a mission.

    Where is their manifesto?
    Perhaps if the cops don’t kill him, or he doesn’t kill himself, the motivations might become clear.
    They appear to have been living the greater part of their lives in the US, so friends and acquaintances will have stories.

  5. Gary T:

    my question is if he had been living here that long what made him do what he did? how did he get radicalized?

  6. What did I say? Foreign terrorists, not domestic. QED

    “Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, born in Russia.”
    —– but living in the US since 1992.

    So he snuck into the US at the age of 5 in order to commit acts of terrorism.
    The sheer cunning of the child!

  7. “The suspects are brothers of Chechen origin with the last name Tsarnaev, law enforcement officials told NBC News. The suspect at large, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is 19, was born in Kyrgyzstan and has a Massachusetts driver’s license, they said. The dead suspect was identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, born in Russia.”

    What did I say? Foreign terrorists, not domestic. QED

  8. Gene H:

    come on, dont make us guess. 🙂

    I am thinking it must be that unholy trinity.

  9. Were they perspiring, were they nervous, were they whispering, talking loudly or in natural tones?

    I’ve seen people on flights doing all of the above.
    Some people are really scared of flying, but not scared enough to use alternative means of travel.

    Should I assume that these tense nervous people are hijackers?
    Should I assume this only if they are brown (or Chechen ) or speak in a strange language?

    Should I remember that my small nail-file was taken off me at the security check?

    As I understand the situation on that flight, the two were not travelling together or sitting together. They were maybe speaking to each other across rows/aisle – which is not unusual for non-brown people to do.

    What I find frrustrating about this sort of incident is that the media never seem to follow up. Reporting seems to consist of a series of SHINY!!!.
    What happened to those guys after they were taken off the flight?

    In the case of Shoshana Hebshi that I mentioned above, details came out for her case only because she blogged about it.
    The two innocent brown people that were the trigger for her unpleasant experience just disappeared as far as any information about them is concerned.
    On the same day, some panic about (innocent) brown people caused a flight to land in New York – escorted by fighters. I never could find out what happened to them. How long were they detained – how they were treated.
    The Media were only interested in the sexy headline.

  10. Mike A.,

    Many have become fearful of their own shadows. The questions are “why”, “how”, “is it rational and based on evidence in proper context” and “to whom does the benefits of fear accrue”. The truth of the matter is you are extremely unlikely to die from a terrorist action. The National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) in their 2011 Report on Terrorism found the following:

    “The total number of worldwide attacks in 2011, however, dropped by almost 12 percent from 2010 and nearly 29 percent from 2007.” (9)

    “Attacks by AQ and its affiliates increased by 8 percent from 2010 to 2011. A significant increase in attacks by al-Shabaab, from 401 in 2010 to 544 in 2011, offset a sharp decline in attacks by al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) and a smaller decline in attacks by al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).” (11)

    “In cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97 percent of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years.” (14)

    Of 978 terrorism-related kidnapping last year, only three hostages were private U.S. citizens, or .003 percent. A private citizen is defined as ‘any U.S. citizen not acting in an official capacity on behalf of the U.S. government.’ (13, 17)

    Of the 13,288 people killed by terrorist attacks last year, seventeen were private U.S. citizens, or .001 percent. (17)

    This indicates that the fear of terrorism is irrationally overblown and oversold. Fear is a poor basis for not just policy but action as well. If this is the case (and I think it is), then the question to who benefits from a culture of fear becomes critical. Here’s a hint: it’s not just the terrorists who benefit.

  11. Porkchop:

    I have mixed feelings about this. I dont think it is an easy call to make. We werent on the plane and we dont have access to information about body language and tone of voice, nor do we know what they were wearing or for that matter what they were saying.

    Were they perspiring, were they nervous, were they whispering, talking loudly or in natural tones?

    If I was in a bank and a white guy came into the bank wearing sunglasses and had his hand in a coat pocket, looked distracted and was sweating, I would leave the bank and call the cops.

    We still have our lizard brains but most of us dont use them. Sometimes the lizard brain is saying danger because of some perception we have that we dont even consciously know we have had. A vein throbbing on a forehead, a strained tone of voice, etc.

    If I were captain of the plane I would have told the passengers they have a choice, that we have 2 Arab speakers on the plane and if that makes you nervous you are free to take another flight. There is the door and we will have your bags waiting at our destination.

  12. I wonder how many Chechens were on that flight?
    We’re talking caucasians who don’t look at all brown — and might actually speak English – with an American accent even.

    It’s all very confusing. There should be a law that obliges terrorists to wear headbands with “Terrorist” printed on them.
    Cleary, just panicing and abusing brown people is not sufficient security.

  13. Bron:

    People who don’t want to fly with Arabic speakers can “cross the street” by leaving the plane. That’s a little different, I think, than throwing the undesirables off the street/plane.

  14. mespo:

    kids are always asking my wife why people cross the street when they walk by and tell her they think it is because they are Hispanic. Then they say “those people think we must be in a gang or something”. And my wife says “well arent you?” And they say “yes we are.”

  15. Porkchop,

    “But Dweezil, Ahmet, Moon Unit and Diva are still around — kind of a quadruple threat on any airplane.”

    Only Ahmet would raise suspicion. Especially if pronounced correctly, with a subtle guttural scrape between the “A” and “H.”

  16. Well, Nick, since we now have neither, how would you put that into effect.

    Mike, well said.

  17. Mike Appleton,

    “It means that pluralism is succumbing to tribalism.”

    F***ing, g*d d**n, right on.

  18. Why don’t we have 2 tiers of flights. There will be the one w/ safety measures based on the EL AL model, and one governed by the ACLU. That way, the folks here and elsewhere can have a choice as to what kind of security they want. I would give the ACLU airlines about 2 months before they go bankrupt.

  19. Unless I’m missing something, the operative “facts” constituting a rational basis to stop the flight were the sounds of two men speaking Arabic. If that was sufficient to create panic, it means that we have become fearful of our own shadows. It also means more than that, however. It means that pluralism is succumbing to tribalism. That is the real story here, and it is not pretty.

    And in response to mespo’s earlier question, my vote would have been to continue. I don’t know your experience, but in the course of my career in Central Florida, I have represented Sunnis and Shia Muslims. I have represented Egyptians, Lebanese, Indians and Saudis, as well as people from various parts of Europe. And when I drove a taxicab in Boston in college, I actually permitted black people to get in. We need to get over this nonsense and grow up as a nation.

    Now if I were sitting on a plane and two people started speaking in tongues and passing out Gideons, I might want to turn back.

Comments are closed.