Privacy SOS

Abdul Khan (a pseudonym) is a graduate student who moved to Boston from Pakistan fifteen years ago. Two years ago he married an American convert.

“I think as a Muslim I expected to be treated a certain way and have accepted that to a some degree. My wife as a convert has a bigger problem with it, because there is such a change from how she was treated before her conversion to how she is being treated now.”

At the airport, he always has SSSS marked on his ticket and has to deal with special searches. It is more of an issue for his wife. 

“She is never flagged because she has an American name, but she is always stopped at the security line. I always ask the security officers why she is getting the additional pat down. I am told different things. Sometimes they say it is because of her loose clothing, sometimes because she is wearing a headscarf and could be hiding something in it. The rationale they offer is always conflicted. One time two officers told me two different reasons for the same incident. It is obvious that it is because of her appearance. When the security staff is extra rude, I ask for a feedback form or someone I can speak to. Usually that doesn’t go down too well with the officers. Logan Airport is often not pleasant. It has gotten to the point where my wife refuses to fly from there. We will go to the airport in Manchester instead.  Even though it is a smaller airport, we don’t seem to have any problems there. While no one is disputing that they need to carry out their duties, airport officials need to follow minimally invasive procedures and should have sensitivity training.”

How does he answer the question, why are Muslims terrorists? “Yes, there are some Muslims who do this, but don’t demonize Muslims even if there is a problem. Include Muslims in understanding and solving the problem. We should recognize that incidents of violence globally do have Muslim actors. But let’s also take into consideration why that is. There are economic and political reasons for this. It is imperative to understand that Islam has nothing to do with this. Islam is not violent.  These are individual Muslim actors who are violent.”

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.