Afraid of a Name

root - Posted on 01 January 2000

Disabled Muslim man profiled and assaulted by airline officials

by Leroy F. Moore, Jr.

I didn’t know it was OK for a person to endure a physically and emotionally painful episode of harassment due to someone’s fear of one’s name! As a Black disabled man I was afraid when David Duke ran for president but I was forced to see and hear him on T.V., radio and in the newspapers. There are many names that bring uneasy feelings to me i.e. Jerry Fallwell, LAPD, Jesse Helms and the man that stole the White House, Mr. George Bush, Jr. But I am forced to swallow my fear, deal with it and go on. Now in this time of war people can be harassed and certain people’s liberties and civil rights can be stepped on because of fear!

On Friday October 5th, 2001 Black Disabled Yahoo listserve had an email entitled “Disabled Muslim Man Faces Airline’s Harassment at San Francisco International Airport.” This man, named Samir, demanded to know why he was taken off two planes and his wheelchair searched by FBI bomb-searching dogs, causing him to miss his flight and have to wait until the following day to catch a plane home to Portland, Oregon. An Alaska Airlines employer said that “the flight attendant didn’t want him there, on the plane. She was basically afraid of his name.” The Alaska Airline’s customer service department called him to apologize and offered him a free ticket. Samir refused to take it and instead asked for a written apology, payment for phone bills he incurred while staying at a hotel as well as the equivalent of one day’s salary (he missed a day of work because of this conflict).

The airline tried to put the reason for the conflict onto the way his wheelchair was packed, not his name. Samir didn’t accept this reason because it happened twice on two different planes, and to have the FBI and everyone check and repack his wheelchair was unacceptable. And when he got home he confirmed that an Alaska Airline employee told him that his name was the reason he could not travel. This statement erases the airline’s excuse — his wheelchair — that caused him to wait eleven hours, putting him in physical distress, just to have the samething happen on a second plane.

Are we Americans going to continue to react to the incident of September 11th without thinking about how our reactions are affecting people of color, people with disabilities of color and the general public? The tragic events of September 11th caused many deaths and much destruction, and now our reactions to September 11th are causing verbal and physical harassment and abuse to our own brothers and sisters of color in our own country. Where is the healing process??

For more information on this case go to read the article written by Samana Siddiqui at



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