A campaign to boycott United Airlines is gaining traction on social media after reports of an extreme case of Islamaphobia by staff and passengers on a flight this week.
It appears that Ms Ahmad has become yet another victim of the insidious racial profiling, by staff and passengers alike, which is all too common today. When the flight attendants and the reportedly racist passengers look at Ahmad, they saw a potential terrorist, a security threat.
They didn’t see Chaplain Tahera Ahmad, a dynamic Muslim “scholar-practioner” raised in Morton Grove, Illinois. They didn’t see the Ahmad that played Varsity basketball at Niles West High School. They didn’t see working her way to the Department of Islamic Studies and Christian Muslim Relations and Islamic Chaplaincy at Hartford Theological Seminary in Connecticut. They didn’t see the Tahera Ahmad that was honored at the White House during Women’s History Month in 2014.
When Tahera Ahmad become the first woman to recite the Qur’an at the opening of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) convention in 2013, President Obama was moved to note the occasion, stating:
“Over the last half century, you’ve upheld the proud legacy of American Muslims’ contributions to our national fabric, and this gathering is a testament to that tradition.”
They were unaware of the extraordinary woman in their midst.
The staff and passengers on this United Airlines flight didn’t see those possibilities in Tahera Ahmad because of racism. Racism limits our view of the human being before us. It reduces them to a person-shaped mirror reflecting only our own fears and prejudices.
Muslims and non-Muslims alike are rallying on Facebook and at the Twitter hashtag #UnitedForTahera in a bid to pressure United Airlines for an appropriate response to the allegations.
The calls for boycott have been supported by prominent Muslim-Americans such as Dallas/Boston based Director of the Qalam Institute, AbdelRahman Murphy, and scholar Omar Suleiman.
This case is a horrifying personal example of the scourge of Islamaphobia being spread across America and the Western world by almost ceaseless propaganda. In 1930’s Germany, widespread propaganda convinced Germans that there was a global network of Jews in a conspiracy to destroy Germany. They taught that every Jewish person, right down to children, were by nature a part of this conspiracy.
Looking back on that today, it is patently absurd.
But today, how many people believe these same ideas about Muslims?
On Fox News, for instance, Eric Bolling said that the only religion ever to kill people is Islam. Forgetting several thousand years of world history, and the fact that 90 percent of domestic terrorism in the United States is committed by non-Muslims.
Reverend Franklin Graham, son of Reverend Billy Graham (who married big business and Christianity to create the Christian Conservative movement) has repeatedly stated that Muslims have infiltrated the White House. Like they were cockroaches or body snatchers.
These are just two examples from the constant drip of rhetoric across media, politics and the Christian Conservative movement. This never-ending scare-mongering has convinced terrifyingly large numbers of people that Muslims are uniquely violent, and this scale of threat warrants prejudice against every Muslim. In fact, it’s viewed as prudence, not prejudice. If you are reading this and thinking “It is sad that this happened to her, but I can see why they did it,” you are one of those people.
We have multiple examples within living history of the awful consequences that follow such limited and bigoted thinking. Let us not relive those disgraceful times again. Let us instead remember our humanity, and let that be what we see reflected back to us in the eyes of others.
Featured Image via Northwestern University