I went to Puerto Rico last weekend to celebrate a bachelor party for a friend of mine. On my way to the airport I joked with my friend that I was going to be picked for a random search because that's what happens to you when you have a Muslim name like I do. As I went through security, making sure to take all of the items out of my pocket to go through the scanner, I decided I had gotten it all into those ugly plastic bins. The official running the bags through the machine commented on my Yankees hat because he is a fan himself. I was feeling like maybe I was going to get lucky today, and not be searched just because I'm brown. After he told me to have a nice day I walked through the metal detector. It began to beep. I started to think to myself "here we go again." So I asked the TSA official in front of me if my glasses had set off the machine. He replied, "No, this is a random search."
What happened next was that I was brought over to an area in front of everyone. I was told that my bag would be checked. They proceeded to open my bag, and go through everything in it while asking me what each item was. It was hard not to give snarky responses when asked each question because it was just a duffel bag filled with a bag of dirty clothes and damp board shorts. I knew there was nothing in there they would find of interest, but it's not like voicing that to them would have been helpful at all. If anything, it would have just brought me to a back room where I would get interrogated and probed further just because I decided to stand up for myself.
I have a huge issue with what happened that day. And what happens to me every single time I go to an airport. This was supposedly a random search. But it wasn't a random search at all. It was a "you're a Muslim" search. I'm tired of being told that it's a random search every single time. I have fewer rights when I walk into an airport because I'm brown. I always have to feel on edge because I know I'm being looked at suspiciously, and not being I've done anything wrong, but because I'm one of the two million Muslims living in this country in a post 9/11 era.
I get it. My name is Azeem Khan. It's not James Williams. That's why I got picked. It wasn't random. I understand that. So does the person telling me it's random.
When police officers want to do racial profiling in the streets in Arizona or in Harlem, there is an outcry of people talking about how it's not the American way to do so. So why is everyone silent when it's done at the airport to innocent people like me? Why aren't people standing up for me? The white guy who's standing behind me will never know what it's like. He's never going to get randomly searched like I do. So he's never going to stand up for me. Don't get me wrong; I take issue with Muslims on this too.
The Muslim community is too scared to say anything I'm saying here. Everyone within the Muslim community thinks the best thing to do is stay quiet, which is absolutely ridiculous. If no one amongst us is willing to stand up for us, then who will? I'm tired of not saying anything about all of the issues we're dealing with. We need a voice other than the psychopaths that are going around blowing stuff up in the name of Islam. So here's a call to people to start speaking up.
I'm an American citizen. I pay my taxes and deal with the flavorless fruit just like the rest of Americans (the fruit in Puerto Rico is great). Why am I treated differently when I get to an airport, or feel like I have fewer rights there? Racial profiling is never okay. It's not when cops do it, and we need to start being more aware of the fact that it's also not okay when a TSA officer does it either. C'mon Americans. Open your eyes.