- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2006

Observing hajj

A pocket guide published by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, titled “Your Rights and Responsibilities as an American Muslim,” states: “As an airline passenger, you are entitled to courteous, respectful and non-stigmatizing treatment by airline and security personnel.

“You have the right to complain about treatment that you believe is discriminatory,” it says.

That said, the Washington-based council is applauding yesterday’s announcement by the Transportation Security Administration that it has completed special training for 45,000 airport security personnel surrounding Islamic traditions related to hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

The “cultural sensitivity training,” as one TSA official refers to it, enables officers to recognize items that pilgrims might be carrying, as well as Islamic prayers that might be overheard in airports and aboard aircraft.

David Shelby, a writer with the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, quotes Darrin Kayser of the TSA as saying: “We put out information telling everyone that hajj is coming; this is the time frame; individuals are going to be traveling with these types of items; just to be aware that they may also be praying. I guess you would call it cultural sensitivity training.”

Mr. Shelby points out that the training comes one month after Department of Homeland Security personnel were criticized for removing six imams from a domestic flight after a passenger reported suspicious behavior.

The annual pilgrimage to Mecca falls during the New Year holiday period and draws about 2.5 million pilgrims, according to Saudi officials. In 2005, Mr. Shelby says, about 15,000 Americans made the trip, a number that is increasing each year.

Quote of the week

“I don’t think I could do without certain modern conveniences, like the Amish do. I need my BlackBerry.”

— Paul Jacob, senior fellow of Americans for Limited Government

God and country

James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul” who died of congestive heart failure on Christmas morning at 73, sang both a patriotic and spiritual tune when interviewed in the weeks after September 11 by 630 WMAL’s Rick Fowler in Washington.

“Thinking about our country, now is the time that we should come together and be one — like we should be. It was founded by our forefathers, for this to be a melting pot with liberty and justice for all. We need all those things, and we need the love, especially the love,” Mr. Brown said on Oct. 21, 2001, while appearing at RFK Stadium for the United We Stand concert.

He then added: “One thing we need and we can’t get enough of is prayer, we need more prayer and we need to get prayer back in our schools. I don’t wanna get political; I’m not a political man. I’m a humanitarian, and I think about the things that are good for your kids and my kids.”

Mr. Brown said that one of the more important moments of his life immediately followed Martin LutherKing’s assassination, when he pleaded with mobs of angry protesters to go home and mourn the loss in a healthy way.

“After the assassination … when our country was being burned down, I was able to talk to the people and stop the riots — Washington knows that, and Rochester [N.Y.], and places like that — and cool it out, and let them go back and think, take a second thought, and realize you don’t need to burn your country up, you need to build it up.”

It was no different, he added, when he appeared in concert, when people in the audience would see “a lot of energy, a lot of funk, and a lot of love and respect for our country.”

Wedding and funeral

“It is not easy to end these remarks,” President Ford said in his final State of the Union address in the House of Representatives on Jan. 12, 1977, reading from a document that will go on special display at the National Archives today through January 11.

“It was here that I stood 28 years ago with my freshman colleagues, as Speaker Sam Rayburn administered the oath,” said Mr. Ford, who died Tuesday at 93. “It was here we waged many, many a lively battle — won some, lost some, but always remaining friends. It was here, surrounded by such friends, that the distinguished Chief Justice [Warren E. Burger] swore me in as vice president on Dec. 6, 1973.

“It was here I returned eight months later as your president to ask not for a honeymoon, but for a good marriage.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin @washingtontimes.com.

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