Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Damned whether you do or not

PZ talks about a couple of incidents.  In the first, a Muslim actress has been sentenced to 90 lashes and a year in jail for acting.  She acted in this film, made in Australia, which describes part of the plight of women in Iran.  I wish I could say that the irony will burn more than the lashes, but it won’t.  Ninety lashes.  Of a whip. On flesh.  And a year in jail.  For doing her job.

In the second, a Muslim student is thrown off a plane for looking Muslim.  This was after a ‘random’ ‘second screening’ and other various hurdles to get on the plane in the first place.  In the end, the captain decided that he couldn’t fly with someone muslim-looking on the plane because it made his crew uneasy.  The idea that pilots can decide to discriminate that way against passengers is news to me, but it probably shouldn’t be.  I can’t help but imagine plane ‘captains’ (a fucking ludicrous title for a pilot) leading passengers in prayer over the tannoy before agreeing to take off.

I have two stories of ridiculousness while attempting to fly.  The first happened not too long after 9/11. I was passing through New York airport on the way to somewhere or other, Chicago, possibly.  I’d managed to fly all the way from the UK with my regulation bottles of deodorant etc. in their regulation plastic bags, but these were confiscated in New York as being dangerous, even though they met the proper guidelines.  Well, OK, a minor inconvenience.  But while I was waiting in the queue to board the plane, there was a sign saying that if I was carrying a gun, I should report it to staff.  Carrying a gun is apparently perfectly acceptable on internal flights – as long as you report it - but a tin of Lynx is dangerous.

The second is more whiny but illustrates the attitude of airport staff.  The last time I flew out of the UK I was selected for a ‘random’ drugs test.  I’m not sure what profiling boxes I ticked, especially now I’m pushing forty, but they wanted to swab my bag for traces of drugs.  That’s fine by me, I’ve never attempted to traffic drugs and if I did I probably wouldn’t elect to use my own hand luggage to do so.  The swab came back clean of course, but the airport staff were clearly disappointed with this outcome. 

“We couldn’t find anything”, they said, huffily.  Not “There was nothing there, you’re innocent, thanks for your cooperation” but “We know you’re guilty, we just can’t prove it…..yet… I suppose we have to let you through security, but we’ve got our eyes on you”

I wasn’t a problem for me and I don’t mind being checked to see if I’m trafficking drugs (although I’m not sure what would have happened if they’d somehow found traces of drugs on my bag even  though there were no drugs inside – would I have been allowed to travel?  Would I have faced other charges? I’ve no idea).  What bothers me is the attitude of airport staff. I was automatically guilty because I ticked some boxes on a profile.  It didn’t occur to them that I might be innocent. 

In my case it was a minor inconvenience because I didn’t have any drugs.  The problem is that people with darker skin or Muslim attire are bang to rights by this despotic regime.  I fully expect to see this kind of bullying discrimination in America, but I mourn to see it here in the UK.

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