Friday, September 15, 2006

Security risks

A couple of weeks ago a guy was not allowed to board a plane at NYC's JFK airport while wearing a t-shirt with an Arabic text ("we will not be silent"). They even bought him another t-shirt. Hey, if you get a new t-shirt every time you wear an Arabic t-shirt, where do I sign up?

A few days later another guy was not allowed to board a plane at the Birmingham airport in a t-shirt with a picture of pistols. Security risk, you know. He is gonna make pictures of gunshot wounds on other people's t-shirt with those gun pictures. Or something. Don't the security guards in Birmingham have some real work to do? Like, say, checking every woman for gel bras, which are forbidden there?

Air Canada Jazz, on the other hand, kicked out a guy who was already inside a plane. For praying in a rather conspicuous way. And he wasn't even a Muslim, he was a Hassidic Jew. But he was making other passengers nervous. (As an aside: where did they find a Hassidic Jew who spoke neither English nor French?)

Making other passengers nervous is not allowed? Hey, let's ban screaming babies! And airline food made of beans! Not to mention hijabs.

Anyone who follows my blog regularly knows that I don't underestimate the threat of Islamic terrorism and the need for security. Security, however, does not have to mean idiocy. If you really believe that antique pistols pictured on a t-shirt are a security threat to the point that they should not be allowed on a plane, it makes me wonder whether you are also checking people's luggage with a x-ray machine that is drawn on a wall somewhere.

Banning things just because they make people nervous is understandable but problematic. If you actually poll the passengers on what makes them the most nervous this will probably take you to square one on the ethnic profiling issue.

Banning realistic toy weapons is a good idea. Counting a gun's depiction on a t-shirt as a realistic toy weapon makes one wonder about your connection to reality. Texts in Arabic, objectionable or not, have rarely attacked anyone. The flight is not likely to last long enough for a passenger to convert others to Islam by showing them the Arabic text on the t-shirt. And good luck with getting the security employees to distinguish between Arabic, Farsi and Urdu by looking at it.

I have nothing against banning public prayer on a plane (very generous of me, seeing as I have no use for it), but in this case it should be written somewhere in big friendly letters. "No praying". As opposed to first letting somebody pray and then kicking them out of the plane.

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