This is somewhat old news, but SeekersDigest reports how a Jewish traveller was removed from a plane flying over Canada a few months ago after passengers observed him rocking back in forth in prayer.
I’m not sure whether to be appalled by this violation of somebody’s basic rights, or relieved that for once post-9/11 security paranoias are appearing to be applied fairly and without regard to whether the "suspicious" character appears to be a Muslim.
I say the latter not in the spirit of misery enjoying company but out of my perhaps naive conviction we should be able to expect security policies to be implemented fairly and without regard to whether those affected belong to the "right" community.
According to CBC.CA:
Jewish leaders in Montreal criticized the move as insensitive, saying the flight attendants should have explained to the other passengers that the man was simply praying and doing no harm.
I agree wholeheartedly that these people should have been told that their hangups were not this gentleman’s problem. One’s right to freedom of religion and expression should not be contingent on the opinions and/or prejudices of others.
I’m sure the air has been thick with denunciations of this decision, and across community lines. I just hope that those rightly denouncing this narrowminded blunder now will take a comparable stand next time they hear of a Muslim being targeted for a comparably routine and ultimately unthreatening display of religious devotion. And in the latter case there will almost certainly be many next times.
Hasidic Rabbi Ronny Fine said he often prays on airplanes, but typically only gets curious stares.
"If it’s something that you’re praying in your own seat and not taking over the whole plane, I don’t think it should be a problem," said Fine.
The Jewish group B’nai Brith Canada has offered to help give Air Canada crews sensitivity training.
Update (2006-12-16): Tweaked language a bit.