I envision this sometimes: I sit down at my laptop, check messages, log onto the New York Times and find …. Stories about people caring for each other, people helping their fellow humans, people promoting love, not hate. I envision opening my Word document and starting to write about humanity, rather than the lack of it, about people being kind. But today is not that day. Today is the day that the very first story I read was about a young man being removed from a flight simply for speaking Arabic to his uncle on the telephone. Today is just another day for me, another day where my blood reaches the BBB – boiling before breakfast – point.
Imagine how you would feel if you traveled to, say France, and upon boarding the plane you phoned your husband/wife back home in the states to let her know you were on your way home. After ending the call, you are asked to step off the plane where you are confronted by police officers demanding to know why you were speaking English. The police did not like your answer, so they call the Département de la Sûreté/SécuritéTerritoriale (DST – the French equivalent of the FBI). Meanwhile, your flight has left without you. The DST bring in dogs to sniff you, your head is pressed against a wall and your hands restrained behind your back. You are then taken into a small room and questioned, asked to tell them everything you know about the KKK. You are questioned about your family ties in the U.S., about which political party your family supports, what religion you and your family follow. Think about that one for just a minute.
The young man was Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, who had been attending an event in Los Angeles along with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He is a senior at UC Berkeley who is double-majoring in political science and Near Eastern studies. Obviously an intelligent young man. Mr. Makhzoomi’s father, a former Iraqi diplomat, was executed in 2001 under Saddam Hussein’s rule. His remaining family, mother and brother, now reside in Berkeley, California. The airline was Southwest Airlines. They issued an official statement about the incident, stating “We regret any less than positive experience a customer has on Southwest.” I am certain that made Mr. Makhzoomi feel much better.
If this were an isolated incident, it would be bad enough. But alas, the very same week, an unnamed Muslim woman from Maryland was removed from yet another Southwest Airlines flight, apparently for no other reason than that she was wearing a hijab. Last month, an Arab-American family was removed from a United Airlines flight, again for no discernible reason.
It is called Islamophobia and it is a disease that threatens to disrupt the lives of every man, woman and child of Middle Eastern descent. It is vicious, cruel and evil, and it is apparently incurable, affecting a large portion of the population in the U.S. There have been so many cases of Middle Easterners being removed from flights that there is an expression for it: Flying While Muslim. It is similar to the expression “Driving While Black”, which was coined as a result of blatant racial profiling of African-Americans by police.
Obviously, I have a fatal flaw, a mental deficiency that does not allow me to understand hatred toward any specific group of people. I believe this flaw is a genetic condition, as neither of my parents understood it either. It is impossible to look at a person and discern whether that person has a kind heart or not. It is impossible to look at a person, or listen to their language and know whether that person will do you harm or not. Within months after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, the U.S. government began rounding up people of Japanese descent, most (62%) were U.S. citizens. They were robbed of their property and sent to internment camps for the duration of WWII. Is this where we are heading once again? Some in this nation believe that Islam is evil, that all Muslims have evil in their hearts and that people of Middle Eastern descent have no right to be in this country. Those people are wrong. Just like people who believe African-Americans are somehow inferior. They are also wrong.
I do not pretend to know the cure, or even the treatment for the disease of Islamophobia, but the one thing I do know is that we must work as diligently toward finding the cure as we do toward finding cures for AIDS, Ebola, Zika, and cancer. Indeed, Islamophobia is a form of cancer. Just as lung cancer eats away at the lungs, Islamophobia eats away at the heart, the mind. There is no reason to hate or harm any person, any human, based on their nationality, skin colour or religion. There simply is no reason. In my lifetime I have known more cruel Caucasians than Middle Easterners, Asians, Hispanics and African-Americans combined. It is well past time for us to work together to cure this disease.