- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2008

JERUSALEM | A performer with the famed Alvin Ailey dance troupe on Tuesday said he was twice forced to perform steps for Israeli airport security officers to prove his identity before he was permitted to enter the country.

Abdur-Rahim Jackson, an eight-year veteran of the dance ensemble, said he was singled out by Israel’s airport security because he has a Muslim name. He called the experience embarrassing and said at one point, one of the officers even suggested he change his name.

“To be greeted like this because of my name, it took me back a little bit,” said Mr. Jackson, who is black.

Israel is the first stop on a six-nation tour celebrating the New York-based dance company’s 50th anniversary. Earlier this year, Congress passed a resolution calling the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater a “vital American cultural ambassador to the world.”

Mr. Jackson said he was pulled aside from other members of the troupe when they arrived Sunday night. He said he was taken to an airport holding room, where he was asked about the origins of his name. When he explained he was part of the dance group, he was asked to perform.

“I stood up. I asked what type of dance?” he explained. “He said, ‘Just do anything.’ I just moved around.”

Minutes later, he said a female officer put him through a similar interrogation and asked him to dance again. “The only time I’m really expected to dance is when I’m performing,” he said.

Mr. Jackson said he received his name because his father was a convert to Islam. Mr. Jackson said he was not raised a Muslim, does not consider himself religious and is engaged to a Jewish woman in the troupe who has relatives in Israel.

Mr. Jackson said he did not plan to press the matter further, noting that the numerous apologies he has received from American dignitaries and his Israeli hosts are “enough for me.” The Israel Ports Authority said it had no comment because it did not receive a formal complaint.

The incident was reported in Israel’s largest newspaper and on an Israeli television news and interview program.

Mr. Jackson said the only place he has had the similarly humiliating experience of being forced to dance in the past was at a U.S. airport when he returned from a vacation in the Dominican Republic. He did not say when or where that took place.

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