06 September 2006

Shame on Air Canada - and Some of its Passengers

I heard about this on CBC radio yesterday.
An Orthodox Jewish man was removed from an Air Canada Jazz flight in Montreal last week for praying, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation reported on Wednesday. The man was a passenger on a Sept. 1 flight from Montreal to New York City when the incident occurred. The airplane was heading towards the runway at the Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport when eyewitnesses said the Orthodox man began to pray. "He was clearly a Hasidic Jew," said Yves Faguy, a passenger seated nearby. "He had some sort of cover over his head. He was reading from a book. He wasn't exactly praying out loud but he was lurching back and forth," Faguy told the CBC. The action didn't seem to bother anyone, Faguy said, but a flight attendant approached the man and told him his praying was making other passengers nervous.
I'll tell you what was making some of the other passengers nervous, and it wasn't the Orthodox man praying. Certain governments, formerly known as democracies, have been so successful at creating an environment of terro-noia that what would otherwise be ignored is now grounds for suspicion. Beware the "other" - the person who looks and acts different is a threat! Welcome to the Deep South, circa 1950s and 60s (and Toronto-the-not-so-good, circa the same time) courtesy of leaders who - not coincidently - were socialized precisely then.

For shame.

Update (6 Sep 2006): An anonymous commenter brings to my attention that a similar incident involving a Muslim doctor from Winnipeg occurred on a United Airlines flight last week (United is a Star Alliance partner of Air Canada). The shameful official statement from the airline completely misunderstands the issues and the stakes involved:
Brandon Borrman of United Airlines told the Winnipeg Free Press this week that the airline is obliged to take any allegations threatening passenger safety seriously, particularly in the wake of last week's arrests in the alleged bomb plot on flights from Britain to the U.S. "Whenever these types of claims are made we have a duty to investigate," Borrman said. "Our flight crews are trained to make safety the No. 1 priority."
It's their obligation to investigate praying?! It's unthinking, knee-jerk reactions like these that make all of us considerably less safe! I've got news for the "trained" flight crews: Real terrorists don't overtly pray on board flights before perpetrating dastardly deeds!
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Anonymous said...

Where was your outrage when CBC reported just a couple of weeks ago that a muslim doctor from Winnepeg was escorted off a plane for praying?


Candy Minx said...

I can see a few sides to this issue Mark.

I am a Buddhist or was when I was young, but I guess I still am heh heh. I still meditate, and often I use a blanket over my shoulders if I get cold, or over my head to dull sound or light.

No way I would do this on a plane. It's too out there. It's too show offy. It also may irritate or disturb other passengers, and I'm blonde and even I can see this.

Long before terrorism I wouldn't draw attention to myself on a plane. It's not appropriate. Courtney Love has been hauled off flights for making a scene. Flight is one of those times I believe it's important to be universally neutral in behaviur and manners. I realize all nations have different customs and manners...but I think on a small confined space...where many passengers have not only a phobia of flying, but a (okay) media induced fear of flying it is even more time to be neitral and subtle.

I can meditate without a vblanket on me, quietly.

I suspect the person who was praying and lurching may have had a phobia of flying, frankly, they should communicate such with a flight attendant. They may want to explain that prayer helps them with take off.

You are correct that terrorists don't pray before take off. But do not doubt they were praying once they stole the 9/11 planes. the people on those planes who had cell phones were quoted as describing the terrorists as praying and praising god out loud and mumbling. I remember that like yesterday.

I think this situation wasn't handled very delicately. Ia gree, but perhaps we should find some way to discuss how to travel internationally and transmit confidence with each other rather than fear. Oh right, we have that it's called considering ones behaviour against the behaviour of a group...manners. And behaving in a group dynamic tends to instill confidence.

I also think, seeing someone pray is hard on others who have phobias of flying...it sets off their nerves "see someone else is praying for their lives".

I don't know...these are just some thoughts, and I am not written in stone over this, but my meditation practice did come to mind when I read this article.

Psybertron said...

Mark, I also see mixed views here.

The terrormania is bad news ... associating overt ethnic difference as suspicion of terrorist intent. Bureacratic political correctness gone mad. But then so is "no books on planes". This is just a matter of authorities doing something, anything, rather than the difficult thing of tackling real issues. Hypocrisy.

But, overt faith based-displays in public places make me nervous, particularly in the confines of a cramped public space, like an aircraft cabin. I see it as just good manners to show more discretion and concern for fellow passengers, who may not share your faith.

I've witnessed various examples ... the hassidic jew maing elaborate preparations for and actions in prayer, and the loudly vocal islamic women screaming prayers to Allah, in praticularly turbulent passages.

Of course it's not PC to object to such enforced public sharing of faith, in the name of religious freedom, etc.

Mark Federman said...

There is a significant difference between feeling safe and actually being safe - and I, for one, would prefer the latter over the former. Ideally, the two come together; in practice, it is too often the case that the diametric opposite is occurring - we are made to feel less safe and we are less safe in actuality, primarily because of the absurdity that is Security Theatre.

Personally, I object to people applauding upon landing (I find it tremendously annoying and immature), and those who yell out "Praise Jesus!" with every second breath, especially when they've just won a football game or worse, just immolated an enemy. I don't think it is an issue of so-called political correctness to respect another's mode of worship; rather it is a matter of respect, full stop. Personally, I don't find the way most Christians and Muslims and Hindus, and you-name-its pray to be to my taste. In fact, I don't find certain Sephardi traditions to my taste. I was brought up in an Ashkenazi tradition, and that's what I'm comfortable with for my own prayers. That's not to say that I don't respect and admire other forms of worship, and marvel at some of the remarkable spectacle of the overt forms of other's devotion according to their faith. I have enjoyed the opportunitites I have had to share other's practice of faith, and to learn about the tradition and philosophy behind it. (Why do many Jews rock back and forth while praying? Because devotion to G-d is to be performed with your entire being - you give yourself over to the divine in your prayers. It is not merely a cerebral act, but one involving the body, mind and soul.)

For anyone who is nominally uncomfortable with "enforced public sharing of faith" (which is an interestingly euphemistic turn of phrase), I ask you to search your heart and your conscience with the following question: Is it really a matter of safety and security, or is it a matter of a degree of intolerance (let alone acceptance)?

Psybertron said...

Mark, it is certainly not a matter of security ... as for tolerance ... I see it as a two way thing.

Sorry about my "euphemism" ... political correctness tip-toeing through the egshells on this one, but I was sincere. The claustophobia in an aircraft cabin certainly reduces my tolerance to annoying personal habits, however interesting they might be to observe in another context.

None of which is to excuse the authorities for using this as a security pre-text.