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'Don't fly during Ramadan' snaps man kicked off JetBlue flight

You may already have heard about the New York scientist who was recently detained for several hours by the Transportation Security Administration, apparently on the mistaken assumption that he was a Muslim immigrant. While the story doesn't directly involve immigration issues, it certainly illuminates some of the ugly truths immigrants and minorities are often forced to deal with when they come into contact with U.S. law enforcement.

The New Yorker, who is of Indian origin, was heading from JFK to Los Angeles for an annual family gathering he described as involving prayer, visiting temples, and spending time with friends and loved ones. When he reached the security area, the frequent flyer decided not to go through the millimeter wave detector, as is his right, instead agreeing to submit to a pat-down.

This time, a new element had been added -- his hands were swabbed down to check for explosives residue. Unfortunately, something -- perhaps bug spray -- set off the testing machine, so he was hauled off by the TSA. The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and even the NYPD joined in, and he ended up being interrogated for four hours without food or water, he claimed in his recent blog post entitled "Don't fly during Ramadan."

He was cleared to fly after being told by an FBI agent, “You'll have to understand, when a person of your... background walks into here, traveling alone, and sets off our alarms, people start to get a bit nervous.” He drew the impression that the agents thought he was a Muslim.

The trouble didn’t end there, though. In fact, he found what happened next even more offensive. A JetBlue corporate security agent stopped him yet again, this time to scrutinize his ability to follow instructions given to him by women. Did she also think he was a Muslim?

Apparently, yes, as she added, “will you need any special treatment during your flight? Do you need a special place to pray on board the aircraft?”

Nevertheless, JetBlue decided not to let him fly that day, which forced him to spend $700 on a ticket with another airline. The airline told the Daily Mail that it stands by its decision.

Racial profiling by law enforcement agencies and private security isn’t only an immigrant issue -- it affects U.S. citizens and permanent residents, too. It’s humiliating, costly and ultimately contributes nothing to our safety.

Source: Daily Mail, “Hindu man is barred from flying with JetBlue after being questioned about his religion - despite TSA clearing him to board,” Aug. 23, 2013

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