Muslim Imams: The New Rosa Parks?

“I never felt bad in my life like that. I never. Six imams. Six leaders in this country. Six scholars in handcuffs. It’s terrible.” So spoke Imam Omar Shahin, director of the Islamic Center of Tucson, after he and five other imams were removed from a Phoenix-bound US Airways flight at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. What were they doing to get removed from the flight? Some reports suggested that they were merely praying.

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However, there were indications that this was not a straightforward case of prejudice and profiling. Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport official Patrick Hogan said that “there were a number of things that gave the flight crew pause” about the imams. Nonetheless, the Council on American-Islamic Relations announced its intention to file a complaint: “Because, unfortunately, this is a growing problem of singling out Muslims or people perceived to be Muslims at airport, and it’s one that we’ve been addressing for some time,” said CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper. This gibes with a statement by incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “Since September 11, many Muslim Americans have been subjected to searches at airports and other locations based upon their religion and national origin. We must make it illegal.” This new incident may give such an initiative the impetus it needs.

Omar Shahin, meanwhile, was involved with the Islamic charity Kind Hearts, which has had its assets frozen by the U.S. Treasury Department because of its connections to the terrorist group Hamas. And according to a September 2001 story in the Arizona Republic, Shahin “said members of the Tucson mosque may have helped bin Laden in the early 1990s.” He maintained, however, that this was consistent with the practice of the CIA itself: “They (the CIA) called him a ‘freedom fighter.’ Then they tell us he is involved in terrorist acts, and they stopped supporting him, and we stopped.” On a dime, no doubt.

None of these questions about Shahin surfaced in the mainstream media. Instead, MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer compared the imams to Rosa Parks, offering a grateful Ibrahim Hooper a “defense that could be used for these imams”: the possibility that in refusing to get off the plane, as some unconfirmed reports held, the imams were engaged in an act of civil disobedience.

But Rosa Parks did not have ties to terrorist organizations. In light of repeated targeting of aircraft by Islamic jihadists operating by their own account out of their sense of duty as Muslims, discrimination against American blacks is hardly comparable to the scrutiny of Muslims in airports that CAIR is almost certain to try to stop by means of this case. But the apology that is likely to come from US Airways will set a precedent that ostentatious and even suspicious behavior by Muslims is not to be questioned, in the name of avoiding discrimination. What can that do but embolden Islamic jihadists?

If America is to survive, it is eventually going to have to choose national security over political correctness. Shahin has complained that he was “humiliated” and that the way the imams were treated was “terrible.” Indeed. It is terrible. It is terrible that he and the other imams who were taken off the plane, as well as other Islamic leaders in America, have allowed those who commit violence in the name of their religion to do so unimpeded and unchallenged. It is terrible that, if they were indeed removed from the plane for praying, they are among those who have allowed their religion to become so associated with violence that American citizens on an airplane become alarmed at the sight of Islamic prayer.

In a sane world, officials would tell the imams that if they’re upset about being taken off the plane, they should redouble their anti-terror efforts in the Muslim community in the U.S.—which are sorely deficient. They would ascribe their inconveniencing to the sacrifices that are incumbent upon all of us during wartime. But instead, they are compared to Rosa Parks.

Bin Laden, who predicted after 9/11 that many more planes would be falling from the skies, is no doubt enjoying the spectacle.