Friday, February 12, 2010

As a Language Teacher and Multilinguist—I am fairly worried about the Case of Student Being Detained, Handcuffed, & Harassed

As a Language Teacher and Multilinguist—I am fairly worried about the Case of Student Being Detained, Handcuffed, & Harassed

By Kevin Stoda

Simply by studying a foreign language someone should not be detained, handcuffed, and harassed for 4 hours. Passing through airport checkpoints is the most common interface that many people world-wide have with police officers, homeland security, etc. these days. Security personnel should never have the sense that they have a blank check to highhandedly drag a young man through a large international airport in handcuffs simply for studying for his next Arabic exam en route on a journey back to--say Pomona, California.

However, that was exactly “[c]ollege student Nick George[’s]” experience recently in Philadephia as he “was handcuffed, interrogated and jailed for hours at the airport when he tried to bring English-Arabic flash cards on the plane to study on his flight back to school. Now he is an ACLU plaintiff.”

"Arresting and restraining passengers who pose no threat to flight safety and are not breaking any law not only violates people's rights, but it won't make us any safer. It may actually make us less safe, by diverting vital resources and attention away from true security threats," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "Nick George was handcuffed, locked in a cell for hours and questioned about 9/11 simply because he has chosen to study Arabic, a language that is spoken by hundreds of millions of people around the world. This sort of harassment of innocent travelers is a waste of time and a violation of the Constitution."

I agree wholeheartedly with the young Pomona collegiate, Nick George, who stated, “As someone who travels by plane, I want TSA agents to do their job to keep flights safe. But I don't understand how locking me up and harassing me just because I was carrying the flashcards made anybody safer . . . .No one should be treated like a criminal for simply learning one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world."

Similarly, I agree with Mary Catherine Roper, staff attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, who stated concerning this case, “"It should not have taken four hours to determine that Nick George was not a security threat. In fact, it should not have taken four minutes . . . . He was handcuffed and held behind bars for no reason. These agents need to be held accountable for that."


A few years ago, I was unnecessarily harassed by airline staff who served only two or three clients for nearly 2 ¼ hours as I awaited the opportunity to check in for a flight to Aruba from Miami. I ended up missing my flight that day and ended up creating a big scene, as I was forced to pay for my own hotel room. The reason for the delay in Miami was never clarified. However, I will say that it looked like the family at the head of the line and head of my delay in line that day were Arabic—or at least of immediate Middle Eastern heritage. I had originally felt sorry for them—i.e. they probably got wrongly harangued and harassed because they were mistaken for terrorists or had certain Arabic stamps in their passports. All I could tell was that they certainly spoke a different language than did the airline staff and their security helpers.

I have been angry at delays caused by such abuses in profiling ever since. I have often marveled at how even knowing a little Arabic or being Muslim could get someone in trouble, i.e. as occurred with the flight and U.S. airport that refused to allow Cat Stevens to enter America a few years ago.

Let me explain. Cat Stevens has gone by the name of Yusuf Islam for decades. Is “Islam” or Arabic so bad a thing that police or security can act against them with such impunity? Of course, not!!!

Moreover, Yusuf Islam [Cat Stevens] has been and will always be a man who symbolizes Peace. His “Peace Train” song was even used in the 1970s to promote the Bicentennial Exhibition train which passed across the country during the Ford presidency. In short, Steven’s hit “Peace Train” has made him a spiritual leader for peace and calm interaction between man—and a praise for man’s right to travel unhindered around the globe on train or plane.,-arab,-south-asian-men-post-9/11-immi


Imagine if everyone named Christian was prohibited from traveling on flights to Arab and Islamic countries, too!!! Hey, they might accidentally proselytize by pronouncing their when asked to at border crossings!

Now, the student, Nicholas George was simply taking his Arabic-English flash cards on a plane. What if—with my modest ability to read most of the Arabic [alphabet] letters in shrift— I would be stopped from taking a flight because I happened to be reading a sign in Arabic!

Or—heaven forbid-- if I were to accidentally understand some spoken Arabic used in a public place—like an airport or sports stadium. Would I be suspect and taken into a 4 ½ hour internment as was Nicholas George? What we are talking about here is not only racial and ethnic profiling here. I.e. We are being profiled as travelers by the languages that we study!! This leads to mind control by controlling the language we think in—doesn’t it?

That means that by openly permitting profiling of ethnicity, religious, and race for nearly a decade, i.e. against Arabs and Muslims worldwide, we are now moving to the stage of multilingual profiling—and THOUGHT POLICE.

That is, one can only study certain good languages—otherwise one will be profiled. What Nonsense! (NOTE: By the way, English uses the Arabic alphabet, too, as numerals—as do dozens of other cultures and language groups worldwide.)

Now, let’s get on the Peace Plane—errr Peace Train

by Cat Stevens
Now I've been happy lately,
thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be,
something good has begun

Oh I've been smiling lately,
dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be,
some day it's going to come

Cause out on the edge of darkness,
there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country,
come take me home again

Now I've been smiling lately,
thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be,
something good has begun

Oh peace train sounding louder
Glide on the peace train
Come on now peace train
Yes, peace train holy roller

Everyone jump upon the peace train
Come on now peace train

Get your bags together,
go bring your good friends too
Cause it's getting nearer,
it soon will be with you

Now come and join the living,
it's not so far from you
And it's getting nearer,
soon it will all be true

Now I've been crying lately,
thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating,
why can't we live in bliss

Cause out on the edge of darkness,
there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country,
come take me home again



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