On Saturday, March 5, police escorted two Muslim women off JetBlue flight 487 – because a flight attendant didn’t like the way they looked at her.
Passenger Sharon Kessler describes what she witnessed on her Facebook page, along with a cell phone video of the police leading the women away. Her friend Mark Frauenfelder has also published a story about the incident. Kessler did everyone a service by exposing an injustice that would otherwise have gone unreported. At the same time, readers should keep in mind that this story relies on a single eyewitness account.
On a JetBlue flight from Boston to Los Angeles, Kessler was seated near two Muslim women wearing head coverings. She overheard one flight attendant telling another that she didn’t like the way the women were “staring” at her. Kessler told Frauenfelder,
"[She] casually relayed to a coworker that she didn't appreciate being stared at — she did not seem rattled or scared — just smug. Then — after we landed — she announced that the authorities would be boarding the plane and to remain in our seats with seat belts."
She affirms that the women weren’t doing anything even remotely suspicious: “It was a terrible moment — honestly — these women sat quietly, watched movies — it felt like overkill from this flight attendant.”
A JetBlue spokesperson told Frauenfelder a different version of the story, claiming that the flight crew saw the women recording a security procedure on a cell phone. (What “security procedure”? The top secret briefing about how to use an airplane seatbelt?) When police later questioned the women, they explained that they were merely using a translation app.
Whatever motivated the police call – phone recording or looking at the wrong person – such a measure was definitely “overkill.” Facebook user Wajahat Ali wryly calls the infraction “staring while Muslim.” Had a pair of blondes in blue jeans done the same thing, no one would have blinked an eye. How sad that these two innocent women, with limited English, were unnecessarily subjected to a humiliating and terrifying ordeal.
Banner Image Credit: YouTube, PDX Aviation