On a wing and a prayer

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In today’s Wall Street Journal Debra Burlingame brilliantly recaps the stagecraft of the flying imams at the Minneapolis airport: “On a wing and a prayer.”

“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.

Debra misses only the dead giveaway to the staged nature of the roadshow provided by ringleader Omar Shahin. As I pointed out in “The flying imams: What didn’t happen,” while trying to fan the media flames in the immediate aftermath of the incident Shahin said:

“They took us off the plane, humiliated us in a very disrespectful way,” said Omar Shahin, of Phoenix.
The six Muslim scholars were returning from a conference in Minneapolis of the North American Imams Federation, said Shahin, president of the group. Five of them were from the Phoenix-Tempe area, while one was from Bakersfield, Calif., he said.
Three of them stood and said their normal evening prayers together on the plane, as 1.7 billion Muslims around the world do every day, Shahin said. He attributed any concerns by passengers or crew to ignorance about Islam.
“I never felt bad in my life like that,” he said. “I never. Six imams. Six leaders in this country. Six scholars in handcuffs. It’s terrible.”

In Shahin’s interview with Audrey Hudson of the Washington Times last week, however, Shahin said otherwise:

Mr. Shahin says they were not led off the plane in handcuffs, as reported, nor were they kept in handcuffs during their five-hour detention, and they were not harassed by dogs.

Today Audrey Hudson reports: “Probes dismiss imams’ racism claim.” I love this detail from Hudson’s article today:

The [police] report noted that “two of the passengers requesting seat-belt extensions when their body size did not appear to warrant their use.” Mr. Shahin told television reporters that he needed the seat-belt extension because he weighs 280 pounds. However, the police report lists his weight as 201 pounds. Weights listed for the other imams ranged from 170 pounds to 250 pounds.

And Debra nails the conclusion:

Ultimately, the most despicable aspect about the imams’ behavior is that when they pierced the normally quiet hum of a passenger waiting area with shouts of “Allahu Akbar”and deliberately engaged in terrorist-associated behavior that was sure to trigger suspicion, they exploited the fear that began with the Sept. 11 attacks. The imams, experienced travelers all, counted on the security system established after 9/11 to kick in, and now they plan not only to benefit financially from the proper operation of that system but to substantially weaken it–with help from the Saudi-endowed attorneys at CAIR.
US Airways is right to stand by its flight crew. It will be both dangerous and disgraceful if the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation and, ultimately, our federal courts allow aviation security measures put in place after 9/11 to be cynically manipulated in the name of civil rights.

Investors Business Daily has also seen through the sham, most recently in its editorial: “Tale of fibbing imams.” The graphic above is IBD’s timeline sidebar. (Thanks to Greg Lang of Soliah.com.)
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UPDATE: Andrew McCarthy adds:

I didn’t realize when I pointed to Debra’s op-ed this morning that her niece, Wendy Burlingame, the 32-year-old daughter of her late brother Chic, died tragically last evening in a fire at her home in New Jersey. (NY Daily News report, here.)
Our hearts and prayers to the heroic Burlingame family, which has endured far more than its share of sorrow.

We join our prayers for the Burlingame family to Andrew McCarthy’s.

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