Spending time in various East Coast airports over the Thanksgiving holiday, I made a disturbing observation. At the gates, whenever we heard a passenger paged by the authorities, it was always someone with a Muslim-sounding name.
I heard three such pages while we were en route to Manchester, N.H., and one or two on the trip home. Each time a “Mohammed” or an “Abdullah” was asked to report to the gate, my husband and I exchanged raised eyebrows.
I know those folks weren’t all flying standby. And lest you think I’m just looking for trouble, I know from my own family that people with Muslim-sounding names are singled out for attention in our current climate of insecurity. My 4-year-old niece, whose last name is the same as her Moroccan father’s, was asked to report to a desk at a Florida airport while her carry-on luggage was searched. (Her mom, who has our family’s Russian-immigrant-abbreviated-at-Ellis-Island last name, was not called).
When I heard that story, I pictured stern, uniformed guards pulling crayons, coloring books and Power Puff toys out of Sofia’s backpack, turning each item over carefully before putting it back in her bag. This is how we are making the world safe for democracy, I guess.
As an experiment, maybe we should all adopt Muslim names for our next scheduled flight. We’ll see how many times we get called to the desk.