Thursday, March 17, 2011

Since When Is Prayer Dangerous? Aircraft Goes into "Lockdown" When Passengers Pray

There are many ways that an aircraft can be harmed, but prayer isn't one of them. And yet, an Alaska Airlines flight went into "lockdown" mode on Monday, March 14, when three passengers started doing an orthodox Jewish prayer that included wearing leather straps on their foreheads and arms. The plane was met by the FBI when it landed in Los Angeles, where the passengers were "interviewed" and released, according to MSNBC.

This isn't the first time that suspicious prayer has caused moderate panic. In November 2006, six Muslims were removed from a flight in Minneapolis in handcuffs because of suspicious activity, including prayer. In January 2010, a Jewish passenger on a flight that had left LaGuardia caused the plane to be diverted because he was engaged in ritualistic morning prayer.

What does this mean? Should visible prayer be outlawed on aircraft? Hardly.

When a passenger is praying, he or she is not trying to light a shoe, pull out a gun, detonate a bomb, rush the cockpit with box cutters or commit some other dangerous act.

I know what the flight attendants and other passengers are thinking when they report this so-called suspicious activity: They're thinking that the passenger who's praying --always in some way that's unfamiliar to the flight attendant or the other passengers-- has set some kind of bomb to explode and the clock is ticking.  If that were actually the case, then it would be too late to do anything anyway.

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