Canada Freepress By Doug Hagmann Monday, December 14, 2009 Once aboard the plane, they spoke loudly in Arabic. They changed seats without authorization. They roamed the plane over the objections of the flight attendants, entering the first class area without permission or legitimate purpose. They moved their stowed luggage from the overhead bins for no apparent reason. One even attempted to open the cockpit door, explaining that he mistakenly thought it was the lavatory. Their behavior was described as disruptive and suspicious, which so alarmed the flight crew that the Muslim passengers were removed from the airplane by order of the captain.
The above describes the activities of Hamdan al-Shalawi and Muhammed al-Qudhaieen, two passengers aboard an America West flight from Phoenix to Washington, DC in November 1999. Despite the FBIâ€™s eventual admission that this incident was a â€œdry runâ€ to assess airline security and flight crew response in preparation for the 9/11 terrorist hijackings, the incident earned only a footnote in the 9/11 Commission Report and its significance was deliberately downplayed. At that time, there were allegations of profiling by the airline, flight crew and authorities, and accusations of hypersensitivity and hysterics by many who believed that witnesses were making â€œtoo muchâ€ of the incident.
The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) immediately came to the aid of the two Muslim passengers and arranged their legal representation to file racial profiling suits against America West, which is now part of US Airways, and others. It was later established that the two â€œvictimsâ€ of racial profiling were actually al Qaeda recruits from Saudi Arabia who had received explosives training in Afghanistan. Interestingly, their tickets were purchased by the government of Saudi Arabia, which is a known source of funding for CAIR, and they were both attending college in the U.S. on Saudi visas. The suit was eventually dismissed and in 2003, and Muhammed al-Qudhaieen and Hamdan al-Shalawi were eventually deported back to Saudi Arabia.
The suspicious behavior of al Qaeda recruits al-Shalawi and al-Qudhaieen is consistent with the behavior exhibited by the Muslim passengers aboard AirTran Flight 297 on November 17, 2009, AirTran Flight 175 on January 1, 2009 and the more recent incident involving Muslim passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 227 last Wednesday. Many of the same activities are also consistent with the behavior of a group of Muslim â€œmusiciansâ€ aboard Northeast Airlines Flight 327 flying from Detroit to Los Angeles on June 29, 2004. That incident was the subject of a book written by eyewitness and author Annie Jacobsen titled Terror in the Skies, which details the event from the actions witnessed aboard the plane to the handling of the incident by the airline and federal authorities.
In each case referenced above, the incidents were downplayed, the credibility of the witnesses was attacked, and concerted efforts were made to â€œdebunkâ€ each incident.
The list of incidents involving Muslim passengers disrupting flight operations aboard domestic aircraft is increasing, while criminal charges against the suspicious and disruptive Muslim passengers are not. Instead, accusations of racial profiling, alarmist and reactionary responses by the airlines, flight crews and passengers are becoming more widespread, despite the historical significance of such incidents and the consequential devastation and loss of life caused by these very same â€œdry runsâ€ footnoted in the 9/11 Commission Report.
Rather than handling such incidents as security issues, it is clear that airlines and federal authorities consider these â€œcustomer serviceâ€ problems. This method is undoubtedly the result of the extensive lobbying efforts made by such groups as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) at the highest levels of our government, especially but not limited to the U.S. Justice Department. Doing so has paved the way for civil litigation against those who dare to identify suspicious activity aboard an aircraft, from the passengers to the flight crew to the responding authorities as illustrated by the success of the flying Imamsâ€ case from November 20, 2006.
In that case, six religious leaders were removed from USAir Flight 300 for suspicious behavior, which was well documented in this police report. Three years later, the six Imams, represented by CAIR lawyers, hit the airline discrimination suit â€œlotteryâ€ when their discrimination case was settled for an undisclosed sum in favor of the Imams. They have embraced their victory by assisting other Muslims members of the flying public with their web site â€œFlying While Muslimâ€ and a fill-in-the-blank form to report discriminatory actions by airlines, passengers, flight crews, and even police who react to suspicious activity for the safety of the flight. The Council on American Islamic Relations also has published an online reference for Muslims titled Know Your Legal Rights as an Airline Passenger to essentially streamline the litigation process.
Also, it appears hardly coincidental that Omar Shahin, one of the six Imams removed from USAir Flight 300 who acted as their spokesperson, had direct ties to Muhammed al-Qudhaieen and Hamdan al-Shalawi from the 1999 incident. Shahin was a leader at the Saudi-backed Islamic Center of Tucson, where al-Qudhaieen and al-Shalawi attended. According to the best-selling book â€œMuslim Mafia,â€ Shahin admitted to being â€œa former supporter of Osama bin Laden while running the Saudi-backed Islamic Center of Tucson, which functioned as one of al-Qaidaâ€™s main hubs in North America.â€
It is to our peril that the numerous incidents aboard our aircraft by Muslim passengers are being purposely downplayed and debunked as hype or even urban legend. The integrity and credibility of those reporting such incidents are under attack as alarmists, racists, or liars. The incidents are aggressively being â€œdebunkedâ€ by self-appointed online arbiters of fact, relying on â€œofficialâ€ statements made by those having a specific agenda.
Meanwhile, the flying public becomes more vulnerable. Perhaps the ever growing lists of suspicious incidents involving Muslims on airplanes will warrant more than a footnote when the next investigative commission into the attacks on America is published.