Snakes on a Plane, Muslims off the Plane

An article by Naeem Mohaiemen on alt.muslim is to thank for the title of this post.I have not seen the movie (an amusing audio review of the movie from NPR, warning: deleted expletives and music outro) but I have been keeping tabs on the latest incidents of flying while Muslim and paranoia from around the world.I am not a terroist

I’m sure many people have had experiences or have heard from others about the completely un-random “random screenings” that far too many have had to endure while not actually becoming any safer to the threats posed by people intent on using explosives to bring down airliners.

I used to work for the Transportation Security Administration and have some tips for airport travelers and Muslim fliers in particular.

1. Travel as light as possible. Pack neatly and use a lot of clear plastic containers or bags within your carry-on luggage.

2. Familiarize yourself with the airports you use most often so you know in advance where to park, shuttle service, prayer rooms, where to direct customer service complaints, the expected lines and wait times to get through security. Expect delays during peak travel hours and holidays.

3. Please take off your shoes. If you do not want to walk on the floor or carpet then wear socks.

4. Divest as much metal (watches, jewelry, belt buckles, cell phones, PDA’s, etc.) as possible and place these items inside your carry-on bag before you get to the x-ray machine and the walk-through metal detector.

5. Please be prepared to take off your jackets, coats, blazers, and zipped-up hoodies. You do not need to take off outer-garments worn for a religious reason but you may be selected for additional screening.

6. Don’t compare screening procedures at one airport to that of another or even screening procedures the last time you flew out of the same airport. This just annoys the screeners and increases the likelihood of the screener sending you for additional screening or simply slowing down the process to annoy you in return.

7. If you feel you are being treated unfairly, ask to speak to a screening supervisor (3 stripes on the shoulder epaulet) or a screening manager (plain-clothes). They may give you a lead officer (2 stripes on shoulder) but even so ask to see a supervisor or screening manager.

8. Maintain good hygiene.

9. Take your laptop computer out of its bag or sleeve.

10. If you feel uncomfortable with the screening procedure in public, you can request a “private screening area” but know that this may cause a significant delay in processing you through security.

11. You can carry an unlimited amount of cash on domestic flights but even so you may be asked a few extra questions. Internationally, the limit is $10,000.

12. There is freedom of speech to carry any books you want but it is not unusual for travellers that “look Muslim” to be questioned about their reading material. Joking about bombs, explosives, etc. may get you into serious legal trouble.

This is just some general advice to consider when flying out of airports in the US. And if all else fails you can wear the “I am not a terrorist” shirt available in several styles and comes in both male and female variants.

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