Skift CEO Rafat Ali reflects on what it’s like to be a post 9/11 Muslim traveller.
Most of us have been guilty of a suspicious sideways glance at the Muslim on the train or at the game. And they don’t even have to be obviously Muslim. These days, anyone with a beard and a Middle Eastern complexion is fair game for societal paranoia.
I’m as free-thinking and accepting as anyone, but the events of 9/11 left a mental scar that will probably never heal. I wasn’t there, but I have (thank the stars not ‘had’) friends who were there. It was a once bitten moment that still rattles around in the heads of many as they board a plane or look up at a tall building.
Or maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who can safely say they’re free from all prejudice and fear. Although I say “bollocks”.
I digress, but you see how easy it is to get caught up in the tide of speculation and rumination over something that never did, and probably never will, happen to you.
So, are you afraid of flying? If so, why? Is it because you don’t trust planes or don’t trust everyone on them?
Skift CEO Rafat Ali is a passionate tourism advocate and each week I read about his promotion and love of all things travel.
Recently, he penned an essay about what it’s like to be a Muslim traveller post 9/11. His essay – an enlightening read that puts you in the shoes of a man who has experienced the indignity of being treated as the very worst person on the plane – even though he has never done anything to deserve it. He is not alone. Let’s face it.
“The demons in my head are real. They are real because they have been created over more than a decade and a half, bit by bit, indignity by indignity, layers upon layers of wounds big and small that have now calcified into my over-anxious brain,” he writes.
“I’m not afraid of flying … I’m not afraid of the risk of it. I’m afraid I end up somewhere I don’t want to go. Afraid of being stuck in a place with people who look at me differently. I’m afraid of the what-ifs. What if something wrong happens and they don’t believe me…?
“I am this guy. I fit every cliché; I am the abstract villain of your imagined anxieties.
“Traveling while Muslim. Doesn’t matter if you are practising or not. Or you wear visible signs of being Muslim. There are dozens and dozens of permutations of typecasting us, and they all play out every day. Most of all, they settle down in our brains and play havoc while we travel.”
Everyone has an opinion about religion. And while anyone who does ‘believe’ may pray to their god for safekeeping, it may be worth remembering that if that god does exist, you could be praying to the same one as the man praying next to you.
Read the full essay at www.skift.com
Have you been guilty of this type of treatment of Muslims, or anyone who remotely fits that description, on a plane or somewhere else? Have you ever stopped to think how they feel?
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