Years back, on a near-empty Delhi-Mumbai flight, I feared for my life. There was turbulence of another kind. Shortly after the aircraft had commenced its taxi to the runway and passengers are expected to remain seated, a tall, bearded, stern-faced man, wearing something like a thawb, abruptly got up from his seat and walked to the emergency exit. That was undoubted reason for panic, and what didn’t help was that he started to pray in a namaz posture. I began imagining the worst. Was it going to be a hijack? Or was he going to kill us one by one? The crew members were mortified to even check him. Mercifully, he was done with salah before take-off and returned to his seat but the fear that had gripped the passengers refused to subside. We sat through the 90-minute journey on tenterhooks eyeing every move and expression of his with trepidation.
I respect religious sentiments but something like this, smacks of insensitivity and a blatant defiance of regulations. Sometime back on an Etihad flight, a man unknowingly frightened on-board passengers by reciting his prayers out loud, very unlike how a Muezzin would do it. So, I’m hardly surprised at the slew of recent incidents involving American airlines behaving in a discriminatory manner with Muslim travellers. These have sparked global outrage at the growing wave of Islamophobia but can you really blame people for thinking overtime? Everyone wants to be safe than sorry.
Airlines have no choice but to be politically correct in maintaining that race and religion don’t play a role, but in reality there exists serious paranoia in people’s minds, prompting reactions that border on hyperbolic. Too many incidents of terror around the world have made people overtly suspicious and bigoted. Xenophobia is at its peak. Sadly, many travellers have even started misusing the situation because they know they can claim damages from the airline by playing the race card. Suing has become the new welfare system. The most recent incident involved a Muslim woman getting kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight only because the attendant did not feel comfortable with her for swapping seats with another passenger. While this might seem ridiculous, arbitrary and against the humanitarian spirit, it is reflective of how things aren’t going to get any easier with terror groups planning a spate of vicious attacks in the West.
1) Ricky Martin attends his charity fundraiser with his Syrian-born partner. The event is also attended by a certain Ana Paola Diniz, with her husband. The lady, who runs a high-end pets’ resort (and being an animal lover gets her into my good books!), decides to donate an eye-watering £63,000 to the singer’s HIV/AIDS project in exchange for an intense kiss with him. The pop star opts for the desperate lunch in front of a squealing audience. The Puerto Rican music legend does an understandably half-hearted but what looks like a passionate lip-to-lip with a lady who is otherwise known to share wet kisses with her dogs and birds. Clearly, her passion for animals matches her infatuation for Ricky. Am I the only one grossed out? I dread to imagine the kind of things that people will do in the name of charity.
2) I was amused to read about the Buckingham Palace advertising for a £50,000-a-year social media specialist to boost the Royals’ online profile. Just imagining the Queen’s Twitter feed: “Swan on today’s dinner menu again! Bored!” / “Just shook hands with a peasant — heading for a good scrub now!”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2016.
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