The fourteen Muslim women said they felt like animals in a zoo that were pulled off a security line at Newark Liberty International Airport last December as they waited to board a flight to Chicago. Security agents, they said, searched through their luggage and cupped their hands around their legs, torso and breasts, while from behind a clear window other travelers laughed and snapped pictures with their phones. After two hours of searches, they missed their flight.
NorthJersey.com Many of the women had never met before that day, but they had one thing in common: They were identifiable as Muslims because they wear a hijab, or Islamic headbag. Now, they have joined together to file a complaint against the Transportation Security Administration, the federal agency that oversees airport security, claiming they were profiled because of their religion.
“I don’t even want to remember that day,” said Meriem Bendaoud of Bayonne. “It was horrible. It took us two hours in front of everybody. It was disgusting. We were cornered, all of us.”
The women, all of whom live in New Jersey, were bound for an annual conference of the Islamic Circle of North America, one of the terrorism-linked Muslim Brotherhood’s largest Muslim organizations in America. They boarded a later flight and missed a half-day of the three-day event.
The Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, of New Jersey, which is representing the women, said the agents’ actions were illegal under federal anti-discrimination laws. The letter of complaint was filed May 2 with the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees it, asking for $100,000 in damages for each of the women, an official apology and mandatory diversity training for all TSA agents working at Newark Airport.
Bendaoud’s voice shook as she recalled what happened the morning of Dec. 28. Around 6 a.m., she was waiting in line to clear a security checkpoint, she said, when an agent asked passengers who were booked on a 7:10 flight to Chicago to move to the front of the line. The 14 women moved up, but Bendaoud thought it was odd that a family headed for the same flight was told to remain in place.
Then agents brought out a security dog to sniff her bag. They said the dog smelled something that needed further scrutiny, so she and her daughters stepped aside for extra screening. Then, she saw agents pulling aside other women who were also wearing hijabs.
“I said, ‘If you want to do extra search of me and my daughters, that’s fine, but why are you bringing all these people?’” she said.
Bendaoud said the agents told her they were being searched because they were part of the same group, even as she and the other women insisted that they did not know one another and had booked their travel separately.
She said she was patted down over her clothes around her breasts and between her legs, within view of other travelers. Agents, she said, looked at every item in her carry-on bag, and swabbed her shoes, phone and laptop for chemicals.
Among the group were three sisters from Wayne. The oldest, Suzanne Elfarra, now 23, said she also insisted to the agents that the women were not traveling together. But she was subjected to the same checks.
“They closed off a line to enter through security checks just for us and gated us in,” Elfarra said. “It looked like we were animals herded through the group. Everyone was angry.” She said she argued with the agents. “This is systematic racism,” (What “race” is Islam?) she recalled telling them. “You lumped us in the group because we look like one another.” (Yes, you all look like potential terrorists)
She grew upset as she described what happened. She said she’s frequently been stopped at airports for cursory secondary security checks, but that what happened on Dec. 28 felt to her like blatant bias.
“You don’t understand my frustration,” she said. “It’s unbelievable that I have to consistently deal with this because people don’t understand my religion.” (No, cupcake, it’s precisely because people DO understand your death cult posing as a religion that you need extra screening to get on a plane)
Elfarra’s sister Yasmine, 21, said she felt caged in and upset as some onlookers took out their phones to record them. Some were laughing and others appeared “horrified,” she said. Yet, when she took out her phone to document what was happening, she was told recording was not allowed.
“It’s sad that the TSA that was supposed to protect us were the ones hurting us and make us feel unsafe,” she said, adding that the whole experience felt “isolating.” (Then you better go back to the Islamic hellhole you crawled out of. OUR security trumps your little hurt feelings)
Muslims need to get a sense of humor about flying, like this guy: