People often try to undermine Islamophobia, but the phenomenon is, unfortunately, real, terrifying, and sometimes even deadly. Just a quick look at the rise in the number of Islamophobic incidents reported in the past few years paints a pretty bleak image of the crisis affecting millions worldwide.
The fact that right-wing politicians around the globe are now promoting ridiculously hateful ideologies against people of the Islamic faith doesn't help alleviate the situation. And as a result, more Muslims are facing discrimination and prejudice than ever before.
This includes two Muslim men who were left humiliated after an American Airlines flight in the U.S. was grounded because cabin crew felt uncomfortable flying with them on board. Why the unease? The men, now identified as Abderraoof Alkhawaldeh and Issam Abdallah, waved at each other after spotting one another while boarding the aircraft on Sept. 14.
The two acquaintances didn't know they were flying out on the same plane before they saw each other and decided to say hi. Their greeting raised suspicions among flight attendants who got even more agitated when Abdallah went to the toilet and flushed it twice ... because that's a legit cause for alarm, right? No, it's really not.
"I know flushing is allowed in this country," Alkhawaldeh sarcastically said in a statement to press following the incident.
When Abdallah exited the bathroom, he was shocked to see an air hostess "eavesdropping on him." Ten minutes after he returned to his seat, passengers were told the flight - which was set to fly from Alabama to Dallas - was to be delayed.
As people got off the plane, a man who looked like an airport security guy, according to Abdallah, approached the men separately, "asking each about their respective trips to Alabama."
That didn't raise their alarm, and since all passengers were told the flight had been rescheduled and delayed for three hours, both men decided to sit through the delay together at a Starbucks inside the airport. That's when they realized they were being followed, monitored, and watched.
The man was told he caused alarm because he flushed the toilet twice
When the pair got to their new gate, a man who told them he was an FBI agent asked if he could talk to Abdallah in a separate security area, adding that his luggage would be rechecked.
The FBI agent interrogated Abdallah explaining that suspicions were raised over him because he flushed the toilet twice. Unfortunately, we're not making this up. Flight attendants and a passenger actually reported that they were worried about the man's presence on the flight.
Though he was later released to catch the delayed flight, he explained he was left feeling "like a criminal," especially when he saw military presence, police, and dogs waiting outside the airport interrogation room.
"I felt they were discriminating against my ethnicity, against my religion – I don't wish for any human being to go through this bad experience," Abdallah said.
His friend, Alkhawaldeh, also had his bags searched and was questioned by officials. Speaking to the press, he said he was left shaken up by the incident.
"I've been a loyal customer since 1989; I've flown more than one million miles with American Airlines. To be treated with disrespect and suspicion, to be racially profiled, to be followed by law enforcement officers for hours in front of hundreds of passengers, to be questioned in public, to be singled out to check my luggage again for absolutely no reason – this is absurd, unacceptable and un-American," Alkhawaldeh said during a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) conference after the incident.
Islamophobic incidents are getting more ridiculous by the day
Islamophobia is ridiculous in its entirety, which probably explains why incidents related to it are nothing short of absurd. Proof of that lies in reported happenings that just make no sense at all.
These include an incident that took place earlier this year and saw two British women get kicked off a plane flying out of Turkey - a Muslim-majority country - after complaining about flying with Muslim men wearing white prayer shawls.
In August, a man wearing traditional Middle Eastern clothing - a thobe, more specifically - walked into a Starbucks in Philadelphia to get coffee. He gave the employee his Muslim name, "Aziz" — short for Abdul Aziz. The barista wrote "ISIS," the acronym for the so-called Islamic terror group Daesh, on the man's cup instead.
We live in a world where "Flying While Muslim" is a thing
Though Islamophobic attacks aren't limited to airports and planes, many of them do occur in these spaces. In fact, "Flying While Muslim" is a term born following the countless Islamophobic incidents that have occurred in recent years.
The phrase is a reflection of how uncomfortable and scary traveling has become for Muslims. If this fact doesn't instigate change, what will?
People of Islamic faith are being singled out for interrogation and uncalled for searches at airports around the world; some are also often forced off planes for no reason at all and that's not OK.
In 2016, an Iraqi student was removed from a Southwest Airline flight for saying "Inshallah" while on the phone with his uncle before departure. That same year, two Muslim women were thrown off an American Airlines aircraft because a flight attendant felt "unsafe" in their presence.