Freedom Air


The unwarranted removal of passengers from a domestic air flight has triggered an investigation, a discrimination complaint and a national protest.

Flying While Muslim

On Tuesday November 21, six Muslim clerics were removed from a US Airways flight on their return from a Minneapolis meeting of 150 Imams held by the North American Imams Federation. The six–five from the Phoenix area and one from Bakersfield were taken from the plane by an airport police officer and a US Air Marshall after a pilot and passengers requested their ejection.

The grounds for the expulsion? Witnesses noted that three of the Imams had been seen doing their normal evening prayers in the terminal before boarding and they were supposedly heard making comments critical of the Iraq war. (With some 70% of Americans now critical of the war, the airlines would quickly bankrupt if that criterion was universally imposed.)

The other 135 passengers were also forced to de-plane and then re-screened for boarding – a process that delayed the flight for three hours.

This was not an isolated incident. Anti-Muslim prejudice is on the rise in all areas of American life. A recent report from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) details the sad rise in such bigotry.

A National Day of Protest

The day after the Imams were so rudely denied the right to freedom to practice their religion, airports around the country saw a concerted, indignant grass-roots protest. Hundreds of activists gathered at terminals around the country to protest the removal–of a woman who was nursing her 22- month-old toddler–from a Freedom Airlines flight on October 13th. The rest of the passengers endured the apparently standard three hour delay.

Clearly the removal of Emily Gillette, her husband Brad and the child from the flight in Burlington violated a Vermont law protecting breast-feeding "in any place of public accommodation." Forty-three states have some sort of law protecting citizens’ right to breast-feed. Even Delta Air Lines, the parent of Freedom Airlines, according to spokesman Anthony Black, "supports a mother’s right to breast-feed-slash-bottle-feed her babies on our aircraft." Freedom’s spokesman said that it was OK to breast-feed in a "discreet way"–whatever that means.

What it might mean is being sensitive to others’ sensibilities (you know, tolerance and diversity) and at least trying to shield one’s activity from public view, which is ultimately what Gillette objected to being asked to do; as "breast-feeding is natural." So is using the toilet and most folks would not want to see others in that activity. Apparently, it’s easier and more satisfying to be indignant than to be sensitive.

Baby’s First Demo

While it is horrible for the airlines (and other public entities) to harass nursing mothers, what does it say about the Left’s response to discrimination when hundreds of white, middle class, well-educated, indignant moms (and dads) can be readily turned out–with a major assist from many of the usual foundation-sponsored "leaders" of various "progressive" non-profits–yet, odious and more widespread, well-documented racist/religious discrimination is on the rise and has gone virtually uncommented on by the Left?

When the airlines have hundreds of folks at their ticket counters protesting the type of treatment those religious leaders experienced; when progressive foundations pull out the checkbooks and support such actions; and non-profit leaders put their considerable organizing skills to such an end, then we can truly claim that individual rights are paramount in the eyes of the Left. Can we really accept a country where the right to breast-feed in public view is inalienable, but freedom of religion is surrendered as just another casualty in the War on Terror (aka the War Against the Global Resistance to US Domination)?

MICHAEL DONNELLY is a strong supporter of breast-feeding for a number of reasons–health, environment and opposition to the corporate baby formula empires. He also supports the right to believe or not believe in any religion one chooses. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com


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