Knee-jerk cries of discrimination insulting

By Mona Charen: Syndicated Columnist

Six imams got on a plane in Minneapolis. Accounts vary, but it seems they were speaking in Arabic before boarding of their disgust with the U.S. war in Iraq and with American policy in general.

One was heard to declare he would do whatever was necessary to fulfill his obligations under the Koran. Another repeated, “Allah, Allah.”

Once aboard, they aroused suspicion by requesting seat-belt extenders they did not appear to require and took seats not together but scattered throughout the plane.

Several people contacted the flight attendants, and the men were asked to leave.

Now comes the nonsense. The Associated Press declares that this is a case of “flying while Muslim,” and a TV anchor compares the imams to Rosa Parks. Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations denounced the incident as an example of “Islamophobia,” adding, “We are concerned that crew members, passengers and security personnel may have succumbed to fear and prejudice based on stereotyping of Muslims and Islam.”

The Department of Homeland Security has announced its Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is opening an inquiry into the incident. And talk radio is abuzz. “Would they have done the same to a group of priests?” asked one talk radio host. “Or rabbis?”

Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the person who was overheard chanting “Allah, Allah” was actually saying something else. Let’s go ahead and allow that there was nothing suspicious about the request for seat-belt extenders, as several of the imams were a bit rotund. Let’s even agree the six imams were “victims” of discrimination.

It’s a shame. But it’s absolutely necessary. It cannot have been pleasant to be denied the opportunity to fly, to be singled out, to be embarrassed in front of a plane full of strangers. But this knee-jerk reaction to the word “discrimination” is completely out of place in this discussion.

When passengers see six Arab men praying, talking animatedly in Arabic (a fellow passenger understood Arabic and was one of those who contacted a flight attendant), and then boarding an airplane and sitting in different places, I wonder what goes through their minds? Is it: “I sure don’t like Muslims. Think I’ll just harass and annoy them?” Or could it possibly be: “Oh dear God, this is what the 9/11 hijackers must have looked like?”

Is it discrimination? Well, of course it is. But that cannot be the end of the discussion. We are so robotic in America whenever somebody uses the word “discrimination” that we shut down thought and all genuflect in the direction of whoever is complaining. But the proper question is not whether it is discrimination but whether it is justified.

Of course passengers would not be nervous in the presence of six priests or six rabbis. Neither of these groups has any history of blowing up innocent people. Nor do Americans despise those who pray. In fact, uniquely among Western democracies, we are great fans of religion.

But Islam is problematic. While we would love to think Islam is as pacific as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism or Hinduism, the facts suggest otherwise. Time and again, terrorists who have committed or attempted to commit murder on a large scale have done so after becoming serious Muslims.

This is a hijacking of a great faith you say? Maybe so. I’m inclined to believe it since I do not think that a billion people would be drawn to a religion of hate. But that much having been said, the haters within Islam are certainly having a heck of a run at the moment. Maybe they are only 10 percent of the worldwide total of the umma, but that still leaves us with 100 million very religious fellows who believe they have divine sanction to blow us up.

One final note, if Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch, is correct — one of the imams ejected from that plane, Omar Shahin, was involved with the Islamic charity Kind Hearts, which has had its assets frozen by the U.S. Treasury Department because of its connections to the terrorist group Hamas.

Mona Charen writes for Creators Syndicate. She may be contacted through the Web site: