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December 6, 2006
'Allahu Akbar Was Just The Opening Act'

Debra Burlingame has written on airline security topics ever since her brother, American Airlines Capt. Charles Burlingame, died in the 9/11 attack at the hands of Islamist terrorists. Today she takes on the topic of the "flying imams" of Minneapolis in the pages of the Wall Street Journal:

Given that Islamic terrorists continue their obsession with turning airplanes into weapons of mass destruction, it is nothing short of obscene that these six religious leaders--fresh from attending a conference of the North American Imams Federation, featuring discussions on "Imams and Politics" and "Imams and the Media"--chose to turn that airport into a stage and that airplane into a prop in the service of their need for grievance theater. The reality is, these passengers endured a frightening 3 1/2-hour ordeal, which included a front-to-back sweep of the aircraft with a bomb-sniffing dog, in order to advance the provocative agenda of these imams in, of all the inappropriate places after 9/11, U.S. airports.

"Allahu Akbar" was just the opening act. After boarding, they did not take their assigned seats but dispersed to seats in the first row of first class, in the midcabin exit rows and in the rear--the exact configuration of the 9/11 execution teams. The head of the group, seated closest to the cockpit, and two others asked for a seatbelt extension, kept on board for obese people. A heavy metal buckle at the end of a long strap, it can easily be used as a lethal weapon. The three men rolled them up and placed them on the floor under their seats. And lest this entire incident be written off as simple cultural ignorance, a frightened Arabic-speaking passenger pulled aside a crew member and translated the imams' suspicious conversations, which included angry denunciations of Americans, furious grumblings about U.S. foreign policy, Osama Bin Laden and "killing Saddam."

Predictably, these imams and their attorneys now suggest that another passenger who penned a frantic note of warning and slipped it to a flight attendant was somehow a hysterical Islamophobe. Let us remember that but for their performance at the gate this passenger might never have noticed these men or their behavior on board, much less have the slightest clue as to their religion or political passions. Of course, that was the point of the shouting. According to the police report, yet another alarmed passenger who frequently travels to the Middle East described a conversation with one of the imams. The 31-year-old Egyptian expressed fundamentalist Muslim views, and stated the he would go to whatever measures necessary to obey all the tenets set out in the Koran.

Make sure to read the entire column; it's well worth your time. Also, Audrey Hudson continues her work on the story at the Washington Times today, noting that three separate investigations concluded that US Air acted appropriately when they removed the activists from the flight:

The Minneapolis airport police department's report on the incident said the imams' behavior warranted their removal. The imams were not accused of breaking any laws. The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is reviewing the actions of department members who were involved in the incident. Secret Service agents questioned the imams, who are accused of making negative comments about President Bush and the Iraq war. Officials of the Transportation Security Administration were involved in screening the imams and their baggage. "There is no indication there is any inappropriate activity, at least no indication at this time," DHS spokesman Russ Knocke said. "To my knowledge, we are only doing a review, and that is a fairly routine practice with incidents like this." The Air Carrier Security Committee of the Air Line Pilots Association investigated the incident and said, "The crew's actions were strictly in compliance with procedures and demonstrated overall good judgment in the care and concern for their passengers, fellow crew members, and the company."

UPDATE: Fixed italics tag -- thanks to Kimsch at Musing Minds.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 6, 2006 7:02 AM

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