A blind man who claims his bag was removed from a plane while he was using the bathroom and a mother who said she was denied visitation to her incarcerated son after refusing to remove her hijab say they have one thing in common: They are victims of systemic Islamophobia.
Muslims for Social Justice held a press conference to tell their stories and highlight discrimination against Muslims in the community at the Tarboro Community Center Thursday afternoon.
Ukkashah Muhammad, of Durham, said he boarded an American Airlines plane at RDU on July 26. Legally blind, Muhammad was escorted onto the plane in a wheelchair, he said. Before takeoff, though, he went to use the bathroom on the plane and returned to his seat. When he landed in Chicago, his bag with his phone and glaucoma medicine was gone, he said.
He later learned the bag was removed from the airplane. He believes it was because airline personnel felt it was “suspicious.” The incident, he says, wouldn’t have happened if were not Muslim.
“It’s only by Allah that nobody panicked or that I didn’t say something in an argument,” and get beaten, Muhammad said—or worse, be “another dead Arab, another dead terrorist, another dead nigger. That’s what they would say.”
Raleigh resident Zohra Oumous said she was not allowed to visit her son at Maury Correctional Institution. Her son, Nourreddine Oumous, twenty-seven, was convicted of second-degree murder for the 2012 death of Stephen Curtis Hoyle. Zohra Oumous believes her son is innocent and was pressured by police to take a plea deal.
During a visit to the Greene County prison, Zohra Oumous said a male prison guard demanded she remove her hijab and “shake it out,.” The request violated her religious beliefs, so Zohra Oumous refused. The correctional officers, she said, wouldn’t allow her inside to see her son. It was a year before she was permitted to return for a visit, she said.
“How can they stop a mother to visit her son for a year regarding my uniform? My scarf?” Zohra
Oumous said. “I feel it’s discrimination against me, against my religion.”
Islamophobia is a form of racism, said event organizer Manzoor Cheema. The only way to counter it is to share stories like Muhammad’s and Zohra Oumous’s, he added.
“As long as we [are] silent, it’s not that big a deal,” Muhammad said.