GOOD NEWS! Fewer Muslims are flying because of enhanced TSA pat-downs

Ever since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a trip to the airport has been fraught with dread for Muslims, who sometimes feel they are being profiled as potential terrorists because of their religion.(Gee, I can’t imagine why?)

Washington PostThe addition of full-body scanners, which many say violate Islam’s requirements of modesty, has increased the discomfort. But Muslim women have been particularly reluctant to subject themselves to the scanners, which reveal the contours of the human body in glaring detail.

In Islam, “a woman’s body and a man’s body are both pretty much private,” said Ikramullah, 29, who wears a head scarf. “I choose to cover myself and dress in loose-fitting clothing so the shape of my body is not revealed to everyone in the street.”

The other choice, an “enhanced” pat-down in which security agents touch intimate body parts, was hardly more appealing, said the College Park resident. In recent years, Ikramullah said, she has been pulled aside for a milder version of the pat-downs almost every time she flies. The reason, she believes, is her head scarf.

“It can be humiliating when you’re standing there and people are walking by, seeing you get the pat-down,” she said. “You just feel like you have a target on your head.” (You DO, sweetie, get used to it)

About 440 advanced imaging technology machines are in use in the United States, and there are plans to increase that number to 1,000 – in roughly half the nation’s security checkpoint lanes – by the end of 2011.

“I’ve had a lot of Muslims, and particularly Muslim women, say they’re going to put off travel plans as much as is humanly possible because they just can’t take the humiliation of it all,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “They’re tired of being singled out for their attire. We have reports of Muslim women in tears.” (Awwww, Boo Hoo)

Earlier this year, the Fiqh Council of North America, a body of Muslim jurists who interpret Islamic law for Muslims in North America, issued a ruling calling the full-body scanners “a violation of clear Islamic teachings” that men and women not be seen naked, adding that the Koran requires believers to “cover their private parts.” (Good, don’t fly)

Since 2007, people with “bulky” clothing, including Muslim women in head scarves and Sikh men in turbans, have been required to undergo secondary screenings involving pat-downs. Whether they are willing to go through the new scanners makes no difference, according to the TSA.

“The head covering gets secondary screenings,” said Ameena Mirza Qazi, deputy executive director and staff attorney for CAIR in Los Angeles, adding that she has urged the TSA to revisit its policies. “The issue is whether it is being treated differently than other items of clothing and why it is being treated differently,” she said. Soule said, “TSA’s policies on bulky clothing and head coverings are applied to all passengers regardless of ethnicity or religion.”

But Fatima Thompson, a Glen Burnie resident who wears a robelike jilbab and a head scarf, said the policy amounts to profiling. Although the Sept. 11 terrorists and other would-be airplane bombers were dressed in Western clothing, she said, “now they’re looking for specific ethnic displays, like beard or hair, and I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

Thompson, 44, said she has heard so many stories of Muslim travelers missing their flights because of extensive pat-downs that she recently opted to drive to Toronto, a 10-hour journey each way, rather than fly.

The singling out of Muslims at the security gate perpetuates negative stereotypes and fuels anti-Islamic sentiment, Hooper said. “It only adds to the feelings of hostility,” he said. (NO, Muslims fuel their own anti-Islam sentiment)