A TSA Announcement We'd Like to See
A TSA "Traveler Information" advisory, posted on its website (link here), thoughtfully purports to tell flyers what to expect when they encounter "persons of the Muslim faith ... observing Ramadan," which begins in a few days. The TSA "would ... like to inform the traveling public that they may notice passengers who are observing Ramadan engaging in the following activities at the airports." They may be fasting, "going through ablution ... in airport restrooms," and "engag[ing] in prayer ... on airplanes." Our Muslim neighbors may also be engaging in other "religious practices and meditations," or "orally reciting the Holy Qur'an." Meaning audibly.
You read that last one right. The Muslim scriptures -- what we thought we knew as the "Koran," with no further encomiums -- are now matter-of-factly denominated, as the TSA feels they should be, as capital-H "Holy." That's not a bit tendentious, given that a certain CEO I know of finds the sunset muezzin's call the most beautiful sound on earth. And, the TSA's chosen transliteration of the title of the Islamic scriptures -- with that tricky "Qur'an" -- is intended to be more ... you know ... authentic. And definitely not to be gratuitously exotic, inscrutable, or so phonetically baffling as to back you up, put you off, or make you show some respect due a culture you haven't taken the trouble to understand. Why would you think that? We should all want to know how to say it the right way after all this time. Of course, no such uppercase deference is devoted to other religions. That's because there is no need for mention on the TSA site of "Torah," or "Bible," or, for that matter, for "Jew" or "Christian" (aside, re: the latter, from some dead links and a few irrelevant hits on pages with someone of that given name). Those folks pray at their own risk .
See, as they used to say, it's a free country. And we're all used to Muslims by now. So I'm not sure why the TSA went out of its way to put up this gingerly feature story in the first place. Unless the TSA's expectation is that some infidels may find Muslims praying aloud in airports a bit unsettling. Beats me why anyone would. But just in case, the TSA's subtext clearly is for us to relax and be OK with it. After all, as the president said at his last Iftar dinner, "Islam -- like so many faiths -- is part of our national story."
So here's another proposed advisory that maybe the TSA could bring itself to post up on its indispensable site: you know, stuff we really need to know. This along with how much toothpaste we can bring, and what color shoes we must wear.
Maybe something like this:
The TSA advises that the travelling public may notice crutches, wheelchairs, colostomy bags, canes, surgical implants, and other unwieldy carry-ons being borne by some inconsiderate and potentially dangerous persons while they are waiting on line to dupe TSA personnel into clearing them for boarding their flights.
The TSA wishes to assure the public that no one -- not elderly women, bladder cancer surviors, insulin pump wearers, or those wearing breast cancer prostheses, pacemakers, or knee replacements, or others bearing any of thousands of devious and highly suspect items and ruses -- will be allowed to fly, if at all, without first being groped, goosed, humiliated, scanned, questioned, imaged, wanded, patted down, and digitally assaulted at the hands of the minimum-wage TSA guards working to keep you safe. That includes the wheelchair-bound twelve-year-old girl with a genetic bone disorder, travelling for medical treatment -- the one who first had bomb residue on her hands before she didn't. We've all seen that ploy before. And oh, don't think we missed the sly marine who lost both legs in a roadside bombing but whom we nevertheless required to stand up and walk. We gave no pass to that goldbricking layabout. The nerve of him.
Finally, the TSA wishes to put the flying public at ease by letting them know about the relaxation on travel restrictions for our Islamic brethren from Saudi Arabia -- which, as a "U.S. ally," is "one of a handful of countries whose travelers can bypass normal passport controls at major U.S. airports." Secretary Napolitano believes in the "bond between the United States and ... Saudi Arabia," and so do we. This is called "trusted traveler" status, and we at the TSA believe it is about time. Enjoy your flight, and salaam alaikum.
See, public prayer isn't in the least bothersome. Freedom of religion is one of the reasons our country was founded. It's the non-ambulatory, incontinent, octogenarian, diabetic, arrhythmic, prosthetic-fitted, cancer-suffering amputees who worry the hell out of me.
Richard Kantro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.