3 Muslim Clerics Barred from US Flights

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON, USA – Three imams including a US-born Muslim bound for a conference on Islamophobia were kicked off US domestic flights out of security fears, clerics and an airline said Saturday.

Two imams boarded a flight from Memphis, Tennessee to Charlotte, North Carolina on Friday only to have it return to the terminal so they could be put through “additional screening,” said a spokesman for Atlantic South Airlines (ASA), the Delta Connection airline operating the flight.

“We take security and safety very seriously, and the event is currently under investigation,” said spokesman Jarek Beem, adding that the men were put on the next available flight.
ASA is investigating the incident, “and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused,” Beem said.

US-born imam Al-Amin Abdul-Latif of Long Island was barred from boarding an American Airlines flight from New York to Charlotte late Friday and told to return to LaGuardia airport for a morning flight Saturday, only to be refused boarding again, without explanation, his son said.

“This morning we get to the airline, and the ticket agent told my father that the airline does not want him to fly. Those were her exact words,” Abu Bakr Abdul-Latif told AFP.

“There was nothing he could do,” said the son, who traveled on to the Charlotte conference without his father.

Masudur Rahman, a permanent US resident from India and former Memphis imam who teaches Arabic at the University of Memphis, said he and another cleric, a US permanent resident from Egypt and dressed in a shoulder-to-ankle Islamic robe, were pulled off ASA flight 5452 and cleared through new security checks.

“But when we went to re-enter the plane, the Delta supervisor said ‘Sorry, the pilot is not allowing you to enter,’” Rahman told AFP.

Delta negotiated at length with the pilot, noted Rahman, who said he was told that “some passengers might be uncomfortable” with their presence on the plane.

“I think they were obviously upset to the extent that they were inconvenienced, but, you know, they understand what’s going on in the world and particularly in the heightened sensitivities after the death of Osama bin Laden,” Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations told CNN.

Bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda chief who orchestrated the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States was killed Monday by US commandos in a daring raid deep inside Pakistan.

Al-Qaeda acknowledged their leader’s death, and has vowed revenge on America for the killing.

The imams were heading to the North American Imams Federation conference entitled “Islamophobia: Diagnosis and Treatment.”

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American TV Popular in the Middle East

March 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent

friends There certainly is no love lost between most Middle East countries and the US, where peaceful coexistence is often stormier than two dogs fighting over a juicy bone.  Years of bias, perpetrated by American foreign policy, has left a bitter taste in the hearts and minds of the denizens of the Gulf that won’t easily be washed away by mere ‘sweet talk’ from the Obama administration. However, politics aside, there is a quiet love affair between the East and West that has only grown more intense over the past few years. Regardless of the innumerable ‘fatwas’ issued about the evils of the boob tube or outright condemnations by Muslim clerics, western television and cinema is the daily bread of many Gulf residents, and have  made an irrevocable mark on the social fabric of the region.

Talk-Diva Oprah Winfrey’s show is just as popular in Kuwait as it is in the suburbs of California. Dramas like ‘Desperate Housewives’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ have Gulf dwellers glued to their television screens, just like their American counterparts, on sofas in the UAE, Oman and Bahrain.  And even syndicated shows like ‘Friends’ and ‘Seinfeld’ still resonate with the Gulf audience. And while English is not the primary language spoken in the region, all the programming is made complete with Arabic subtitles at the bottom. A notable side effect of the translation crawler is that many Arab speakers are learning to speak English, courtesy of the western programming.

There are two primary satellite television stations situated in Saudi Arabia and Dubai that send out American programming 24/7 throughout the whole Gulf region.  The media giant of the Gulf is known as the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) and is completely financed by Saudi Arabia. The MBC Group has evolved over the years to include 5 separate channels including MBC3 which airs American cartoons dubbed in Arabic, MBC4 which airs American sitcoms and dramas, as well as the newest channel named MBCMax which airs the latest Hollywood blockbusters to grace the silver screen. The second biggest media giant in the Middle East is known as OneTV, which is owned and operated by the UAE. It combines the best of both worlds, to include western sitcoms and movies in its monthly repertoire.

Both media empires compete for viewers’ attention by offering the most sought-after shows without charging a single penny. Unlike the popular Showtime channel, which is the predominant pay channel in the Gulf, and rakes in billions of oil soaked dollars every year from their subscribers. However, thanks to cutthroat advertisers hocking everything from shampoo to cooking oil, the television business is becoming more lucrative in the Gulf  than the ‘black gold’ that lies beneath the land. Advertisers scoop airtime up as fast as it becomes available, much to the chagrin of viewers who have to wait between 4-5 minutes for the commercials to end, with each show having no less than 3 commercial breaks.

Surprisingly, the key to the success of satellite television in the Middle East is censorship, which keeps everyone happy. Scenes depicting intimacy or even a kiss are cut off. Programming dealing with things such as homosexuality or teenage pregnancy is usually not aired. It is really up to the code of morals followed by each country where the stations are based. For example, the MBC group based in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia almost never shows intimate situations, whereas OneTV based in liberal Dubai has been known to allow some kissing scenes to appear on its viewer’s screens. For the most part, there is not a lot of governmental regulation as to what is aired by either the stations airing the programming or the countries receiving the feed.

However, one country has gone to great lengths to block American television and cinema. Iran only allows a handful of approved American serials to be played on the state-run news station. As a result, young Iranians are downloading their favorite American serials from the Internet or purchasing them from video dealers.
With the Middle East region constantly feeling the strain of threat, whether from internally or from abroad, western television offers viewers in the Gulf a chance to forget their problems and indulge in a bit of escapism, resplendent in jaw dropping comedy and breathtaking stuntmanship that could only be concocted in Hollywood and exported to the rest of the world.

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