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Flying While Muslim: A Civil Rights Advocate on Travel Right Now
by Diane Daniel
Roula Allouch, 36, is a Cincinnati lawyer and the chairwoman of the national board of directors of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one of the nation's largest civil rights and advocacy groups for the American Muslim community. Raised in Kentucky, she is a member of the American Bar Association's Rule of Law Initiative for the Middle East and North Africa. Ms. Allouch's parents emigrated to the United States from Syria in the 1970s. Following are edited excerpts from a conversation with Ms. Allouch.
Q. The term "flying while Muslim," a variation of the expression "driving while black," implies that Muslims are hassled during air travel because of their religion or ethnicity. Is this a major concern?
A. Our main concerns during this time of heightened Islamophobia are mosque attacks, bullying against students and traveling — they're equally discussed. More and more people are being deplaned because they're Muslim. For instance, one student was asked to leave a flight because he was speaking Arabic. What seems to be happening frequently is if another passenger on the plane has a complaint, the person they're complaining about is asked to deboard. We're a country that operates with civil rights. It's very arbitrary and very troubling.
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