If you see something, say something

Nazia and Faisal Ali were flying home from a vacation in Paris, when…I think from their names you can guess what happened. They didn’t make it home that day.

A flight crew member had complained to the pilot that she was uncomfortable with the Muslim couple in the second row of economy class. The woman was wearing a head scarf and using a phone, and the man was sweating, she allegedly told the pilot.

The pilot contacted the ground crew. He would not take off until couple was removed.

The flight attendant also heard her use the word “Allah”. Very suspicious. Of course they were kicked off the flight…they were prolly terrissssts. Because they were brown.

Or maybe this is who they are.

Faisal and Nazia Ali, both of whom emigrated to the United States with their respective families from Pakistan, became U.S. citizens 16 years ago. They are parents of three sons, ages 5, 4 and 2. He is 36 and works as director of operations for Healing Touch, a home health care company that he owns with his father and brother. He has a degree from the University of Cincinnati. She attended Wright State University. They worship at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in West Chester Township.

Delta Airlines has their own spin.

The Delta statement reads: “Delta condemns discrimination toward our customers in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or gender. As a global airline that brings hundreds of thousands of people together every day, Delta is deeply committed to treating all of our customers with respect. Delta continues its investigation into this matter and will issue a full refund of these customers’ airfare.”

No. This was bigotry, plain and simple, and the flight crew, the ground crew, and the French police colluded happily to discriminate against someone on the basis of nothing but bias and air.

Imagine if, in the spirit of “If you see something, say something”, I were on a plane, and I waved over a flight attendant, and whispered, “That 20-something white guy in 9C makes me uncomfortable. I heard him say ‘Jesus’ on his cell phone, and he looks nervous and sweaty.” Would they kick him off the plane?

I don’t think so. White people in America are assumed innocent, while brown ones are always suspect.

I hope, at least, the cost of an overnight hotel stay and a flight from Paris to Cincinnati were deducted from the pay of the falsely suspicious flight crew member.


  1. leerudolph says

    I guess this is what you’d call Karma then.

    “Kismet” might be more linguistically/theologically appropriate/stereotypical.

  2. says

    In April of 2003, I took the train from Toronto to Wilmington DE to visit a friend. Scary enough when we got to the border to have a couple of dozen armed and armoured agents, with their scary dogs, tramp through the train asking for everyone’s papers, destination, et c..

    Scarier still to have been a POC on that train, as every. Single. One. was taken off the train to be searched and questioned further. It was a blazing example to me of my white privilege: no matter how aware I am, how woke I get, how passionate and convicted in my anti-racist work, I can never make border guards and TSA agents and cops see me with the suspicion that POC face every time they do.

    All we white people can do as allies is stand up when we can for people being mistreated.

  3. says

    Given white people’s tendency to commit genocide, shouldn’t we call in a threat every time we see a white person getting ready to board an airplane? Especially if they are carrying a bible. The bible-carriers are killers.

  4. jrkrideau says

    Given the murder rates, mass murders and so on in the USA I’d suggest that rather than worrying about POC we simply assume any American is considered an armed terrorist.

    Special attention given to US police since there is very high chance they are armed (As told to me by Canadian Customs Officer with 20 years of experience)

  5. says

    Cross posted from the Moments of Political Madness thread.

    Some doofus in Texas left a threatening message for members of a local mosque. Excerpts:

    Fuck you, fuck Muhammad, fuck Islam. This is America. If you don’t like the way we do shit, get the fuck out.

    We’ll start just cutting off the heads of all of you motherfuckers. Huh? How would you like that? Maybe we need another Christian crusade, which I think we do.

    We will cut all your heads off, you understand me? All of you.


    The man leaving the message identified himself as a Christian and as an army veteran.

    The bit about cutting off heads reminds me of Donald Trump. Violence and threats of violence against Muslims are on the rise, in part thanks to Trump’s rhetoric.

    The FBI is investigating.

  6. roberta says

    And yet…… I was in North London and taking the tube into the center of town. A Middle Eastern young man got on in the suburbs, and threw his backpack up on the rack above his head. At King’s Cross he made no move to get off until the last second when the door signal had gone, and he ran off as the doors were closing, leaving his backpack on the rack. I thought about saying something, stopping the train or getting off, but didn’t. I told myself I was silly to think of danger. This was three weeks before the tube bombing at King’s Cross.
    Of course, it was harmless, nothing happened. But could it have been a trial run? Should I have said something? It is a decision that I often think about.

  7. Saad says

    roberta, #7

    At King’s Cross he made no move to get off until the last second when the door signal had gone, and he ran
    off as the doors were closing, leaving his backpack on the rack.

    I would have, because that’s quite a suspicious thing to do.

    And nothing like what the Alis did, which was taking a flight from Paris. Not sure what you’re implying starting that post with “And yet…”

  8. marcoli says

    There are rampant violations of civil rights going on with airlines. At least I had thought that being allowed to fly falls somewhere under civil rights (doesn’t it?). I wonder why this recurrent problem about flying while Muslim has not met with a huge reaction from the Attorney General. It has been happening for years, with several cases per yer.

  9. Jack-booted Verbalist says

    I’ve never seen a luggage rack on the tube. I was about to call bullshit, but then realized all sorts of trains run through the city, and *those* have racks.

  10. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says


    Or the guy just forgot he was supposed to get off on that station and in his hurry to run out before the doors closed forgot his backpack.
    Looking back, knowing what you know about the attack, the incident seems suspicious.

    Sure, highly suspicious activities should be reported, but then you also have people reporting every backpack that an unsuspecting tourist moved 2 meters away from to take a selfie.

  11. moarscienceplz says

    The flight attendant also heard her use the word “Allah”.

    Oh my God! Why did the Muslim woman use the word “Allah”? Jesus Christ, she’s just asking for trouble!

    /sarcasm (in case I’m not being obvious enough)

  12. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says


    Jesus Christ

    Someone call the police!

  13. fernando says

    Discrimination plain and simple.
    Just for these couple has a different skin color than most part of the other citizens, they must face that kind of behavior.
    If it was to me i would never use that company.

    Discrimination must be eradicated, for our security, because people can discriminate a man, with the “wrong” color of skin and spoke in the “wrong” language, while letting someone that is truly dangerous pass, just because he has the “right” color skin and spoke in the “right” language.

    Happened to me in two different situations – one in the customs at one of the american borders, the other at one international airport – certain misunderstandings, that ended well, in the spot, without any need to go to another room, or more interrogation,with the custom officials all smiling and speaking friendly to me (and im an foreigner); but i know that if it was someone of darker skin and speaking something that remotely sounds “Allah”, i would have real problems.

    I remember another situation – this time with a policeman of New York – that was caused because of a problem with some ticket and a possible fine: i did pay nothing and the policeman, very kindly, helped me with the right ticket.

    Probably, not being “black” or “brown” helped alot.

  14. jrkrideau says

    @ 11 Beatrice

    unsuspecting tourist moved 2 meters

    This is only too easy to do. I was passing through Heathrow at the height of IRA bombing campaign, put my carry-on bag and a sac with a boxed bottle of Scotch down against the wall and then decided to look a tie display.

    I picked up the bag, leaving the Scotch and walked over to the display and then realized what I has done!

    Even better, I was in Orly and watched a Canadian drag in a huge old leather-bound suitcase and drop it in the middle of the cul-de-sac check-in area while went out to get another suitcase.

    Unfortunately he dropped it between our check-in desk and the El Al desk. Just after he had left a police nationale officer walk in, carefully walked in, saw the suitcase and with one hand on the trigger of his sub-machine gun, very gingerly lifted the label.

    The tourist then returned and claimed the suitcase. Unfortunately my French is not good enough to understand all the officer said but the air did turn bleu.

  15. unclefrogy says

    OK it seems clear that there are going to be errors no way to make it any different.
    The problem really is what to do afterwards. To just give their money back or just some token apology is inadequate. That is just going to increase the resentment of the innocent and their friends and relations. This “‘we need to investigate further” crap is just a stalling cover your own butt move and stinks of basic disrespect of their own customers.
    how is that good for business?
    uncle frogy

  16. Menyambal says

    Right. A brown person sitting quietly is scary, a white person with a loaded gun and a misunderstanding of the Constitution is reassuring.

  17. evodevo says

    My question: was the flight attendant from Cincy? If so, she/he was probably a right winger – Cincy and neighboring Indiana are full of them. Islamophobia is a common problem here.

  18. Saad says

    unclefroggy, #16

    OK it seems clear that there are going to be errors

    Ethnic profiling and racial discrimination are errors now?

  19. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    I can never make border guards and TSA agents and cops see me with the suspicion that POC face every time they do.

    In my experience, being male-presenting and having longish dark curly hair and a beard “works” on TSAholes in this regard. The others, yeah.

  20. maddog1129 says

    In this case, “if you see something, say something,” means standing up and saying, “what are you doing to that couple? leave them alone.”