comes to Small Town, USA
By Laura Mansfield
It happened again this week. I came out of the office to find a flyer
under my windshield wipers inviting me to a special informational
presentation on God and family values, and how to bring them back to the
forefront in America.
I'm a parent so the flyer caught my interest. But as an analyst for the
Northeast Intelligence Network, my eyes were riveted to the address on the
flyer: The session was being held at a nearby mosque.
Curiosity got the better of me, and I decided it would be a good time
for some onsite investigations of the mosque. In order to not attract
undue attention, I dressed conservatively, wearing a navy jumper with a
long sleeve white blouse, and low heels. I debated whether or not to put
on a hijab (head scarf) then decided not to – after all, I was going to
"learn," not to pretend I was a Muslim.
I checked the mosque schedule on the Web, and discovered there was
going to be an Arabic language session an hour before. So I showed up an
hour early. The imam met me at the door, and told me that the presentation
didn't start for an hour, and suggested I come back in an hour.
Fortunately, I had anticipated this. I explained that since I had quite a
bit of reading to do for a class I was taking. "Can I just sit here
He hesitated a moment, then agreed. I sat in the back of the room, with
my book open, and made a mental note to remember to turn the pages every
so often, as I listened to the speakers in Arabic.
The first speaker was the head of the Muslim Students' Association at
the nearby university. Although I missed the beginning of the discussion,
I caught up quickly. He was talking about the problems he had encountered
on a recent trip, when TSA flagged him for extra screening. He joked about
the fact that they had stopped him for extensive screening. He had
anticipated that he would be screened and he had filled his carryon
luggage with printouts of the Quran from the Internet, and had 15 or 16
CDs labeled in Arabic, and he had a notebook computer with him.
As he expected, he was delayed – he thought it was very amusing that
while several TSA personnel were scrutinizing his personal belongings that
his classmate from Jordan was able to walk through security, along with
his American girlfriend, without any problems whatsoever.
One of the men said, in Arabic: "Blonde Americans are good for
something!" Another man advised him to be cautious, since there was
an American woman in the room. The imam spoke up and told everyone I
didn't speak Arabic.
At that point, another student took the podium. His name was Khaled,
and he began to recount his recent trip to New York City. Khaled and three
of his companions had gone to New York for several days in January. He
told of how uncomfortable his trip up to NYC had been. He felt like he was
being watched, and thought he was the victim of racial profiling.
Khaled and his friends were pretty unhappy about it, and while in New
York, they came up with a plan to "teach a lesson" to the
passengers and crew. You can imagine the story Khaled told. He described
how he and his friends whispered to each other on the flight, made
simultaneous visits to the restroom, and generally tried to
"spook" the other passengers. He laughed when he described how
several women were in tears, and one man sitting near him was praying.
The others in the room thought the story was quite amusing, judging
from the laughter. The imam stood up and told the group that this was a
kind of peaceful civil disobedience that should be encouraged, and
commended Khaled and his friends for their efforts.
He pointed out that it was through this kind of civil disobedience that
ethnic profiling would fail.
One of the other men, Ahmed from Kuwait, gave a brief account of his
friend Eyad, who had finally gone to Iraq. Ahmed was in e-mail contact
with Eyad, and hoped by the following week to be able to bring them more
information about the state of the "mujahideen" in Iraq.