- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2001

Apparently everyone should have known the red flags: five Middle Eastern men purchasing one-way tickets with cash, arriving late to Boston's Logan International Airport on the fateful morning of Sept. 11 and boarding the plane.

But there was a reason no one stopped these men.

When airline officials have detained Middle Eastern passengers in recent years, some passengers have sued them. One 1999 case involved two Saudi Arabian linguistics students flying from Phoenix to Washington via Columbus, Ohio. Another lawsuit in 2000 involved a Turkish woman who said America West Airlines employees mistreated her and her son because of their ethnic background.

Arab-American complaints of discrimination, which are increasingly backed by the courts, have gained a more sympathetic ear lately.

In April, the Dallas Morning News made major concessions to a local Islamic group after a boycott and complaints of anti-Muslim bias. The newspaper agreed to "diversity training" for its writers and editors and invited Muslims as guest speakers, found potential jobs for Muslim interns and reporters and offered to publish a booklet of commentaries, written by Muslims, presenting their perspectives on the day's issues.

In late August, a group of Muslim chat-room participants filed suit against America Online for failing to prevent hate speech in Islamic-themed forums. And the "action alert" column for the Council on American-Islamic Relations' (CAIR) Web site (www.cair-net.org) is filled with civil rights complaints or cases involving Muslims nationwide.

Islamic groups also have complained of their depictions in pop culture — for example, the 1998 20th Century Fox film "The Siege," which depicted a group of Arab terrorists attacking New York's FBI headquarters, city buses and a packed Broadway theater.

The question now is, what happens when the stereotypes have become reality?

In Boston, media reports have described suspects with United Arab Emirates passports, a rental car containing an Arabic-language flight manual, a Quran, a Saudi Arabian passport, an instructional video on flying commercial airliners and a fuel consumption calculator.

Federal agents in Florida and elsewhere now report that there were at least a dozen hijackers of Middle Eastern descent, some of whom were trained as pilots for Tuesday's attacks and all of whom were linked to Saudi-born terrorist Osama bin Laden and other extremist groups.

Their reason for the deadly hijackings is rooted in Islamic fundamentalist theology, says David Parsons, spokesman for the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem.

"This ascendant brand of Islam sees both Israel and the West as an evil enemy," he said Wednesday, "and preaches that all Muslims must return to the basics of their faith in order to win the favor of their god, Allah, so they might defeat the Christian and Jewish [infidel] nations in jihad and holy war."

In some cases, jihad — a religious war by Muslims against unbelievers or enemies of Islam — means hijacking an airplane.

This may explain why, in November 1999, an America West flight from Phoenix to Columbus was evacuated on a runway while two Saudi Arabian students from Arizona were handcuffed and questioned by the FBI for several hours. Columbus airport officials said Muhammad Al-Qudhai'een, 35, and Hamdan Al-Shalawi, 38, were tampering with the cockpit door and asking strange questions.

Although America West later apologized for its actions, the students sued the airline in federal court in Tucson, Ariz., for racial discrimination, false arrest, invasion of privacy, infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract.

CAIR asked Muslims to boycott the airline, saying the incident was caused by reports related to the mysterious crash of EgyptAir Flight 990 only a month earlier. One of the plane's co-pilots uttered a religious phrase in Arabic and was suspected of having pushed the plane into a suicidal dive.

Despite obvious Middle East involvement in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper says racial profiling of airline passengers is not the solution.

But what if the shoe is on the other foot? Earlier this summer, Peter Hebert of Germantown was on his way to an Orthodox Jewish prayer meeting when he heard something startling on the radio.

On WWTL-700 AM, at 6:45 a.m. June 22, there was a man reading aloud passages from the Quran that called for rabbis to be slain. These directions were given in Arabic, then English.

Horrified, Mr. Hebert continued to monitor the station, which broadcasts from the northwestern part of the District. On June 29, he listened in on a panel discussion with three men who depicted Jews as "cursed by Allah."

The Quran does say Jews are accursed in Surah (book) 5, verse 64 and Surah 4, verse 46.

After hearing more objectionable passages from the Quran on July 3, Mr. Hebert filed a complaint with the FBI, the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission, which said it does not regulate program content, except in the case of pornography.

Mr. Hebert also reports that he sent an e-mail message to the radio station "which said you have a responsibility to the public to not fan the flames of hatred."

He goes on to say that "the Jews are the most persecuted group in all of history, and most people do not realize this."

Laura Birach, an Orthodox Christian whose family owns WWTL, denied in an interview that the station had broadcast any such thing. All Quran passages, she said, were on compact discs provided to the station, and the chapters assigned to June 22 and July 3 were not anti-Semitic.

Nevertheless, Mr. Hebert contacted his representatives in Congress, asking them to sponsor a law that would criminalize any call to target any ethnic, religious or racial group as an object to be hated, waged war against or killed.

"Our current hate-crime law does not take this into account," Mr. Hebert says.

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