A video of Professor Anila Daulatzai being forcefully removed from her flight by law enforcement personnel, who were called in by Southwest Airlines employees, recently went viral. Professor Daulatzai, who is a Pakistani American Muslim, is pregnant and was hospitalized after her traumatic experience. She said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that she was mistreated after she told the crew on a Sept. 26 flight to Los Angeles that she was allergic to dogs in the cabin.
She said the crew initially agreed she could sit far away from the dogs, but later told her they were concerned about her being on the plane. Southwest Airlines said Daulatzai told flight attendants she had a life-threatening allergy. Daulatzai denies this and has filed a lawsuit. Maryland Transportation Authority Police (MDTA) charged her with disorderly conduct. South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and signatories from several national organizations have called for changes in policy and practice on the part of Southwest Airlines and the MDTA. The letter stated, “Ms. Daulatzai’s mistreatment by Southwest Airlines is part of a pattern and practice of profiling. Between 2015 and 2016, over a period of just six months, several Muslim, Arab, and South Asian passengers reported incidents of being rebooked for their appearance, removed from a flight for speaking in Arabic in a private phone conversation or simply for asking to switch seats. SAALT terminated its 7-year relationship with Southwest and gave back $10,000 in grant funding.
This following post was written by Amara Majeed, a student at Brown University, and a former student of Professor Anila Daulatzai, who created the Boycott Southwest Campaign.
This past spring, as I took “Towards a Critical Muslim Studies” taught by Professor Daulatzai, one of the myriad of topics that we learned about was institutionalized racism and Islamophobia and the ways in which Muslims have been racialized and criminalized during the War on Terror, and prior.
Watching a pregnant Anila being grabbed from her seat by her belt loop, so violently that her pants had been completely ripped open, was heartbreaking and painfully emblematic of the systems of oppression that Anila teaches her pupils to critically understand.
Arguably even more painful was Southwest’s shameful, disgusting cover-up. The incident was never about Professor Daulatzai’s nonexistent “life-threatening pet allergy.” Anila is a person often racialized as of a Middle Eastern descent; one of the very few images of her that existed on the internet was of her wearing a hijab. In other words, this was never about a fictitious allergy: this was about profiling, racism, and Islamophobia.
For Southwest to flip the narrative so completely, to paint Anila as a crazy, “combative” passenger and themselves as the kind-hearted organization that simply wanted to save her from a life-threatening allergy is absolutely disgusting, deceptive, and is reflective of the orientalist tropes about Muslims that the airline espouses.
The news has been saturated with stories of this particular incident – but I think it’s important for the world to know the answer to the question: who is Anila Daulatzai?
Professor Daulatzai isn’t just any professor. She is undoubtedly one of the most influential and remarkable individuals in my life.
I remember feeling extremely impressed when I first heard about Professor Daulatzai’s qualifications. She did three Master’s degrees: in Public Health, Anthropology, and Islamic Studies, and then, a PhD in Anthropology. Finally, she did five years of fieldwork in Afghanistan.
As I walked into her office, I remember feeling slightly intimidated. I didn’t even have a specific question to ask her – I felt that I was likely taking away from the schlew of other important appointments she needed to have, papers that she needed to grade, books that she needed to write.
Professor Daulatzai spent three and a half hours with me that day. Three and a half hours of helping me explore my Muslim identity, of making me feel that I had a safe space as a visible Muslim woman in Trump’s America. This is just one anecdote. This is just one, singular narrative that is emblematic of the type of professor- not even, the type of person that Anila Daulatzai is. The type of character and ethics that she has is truly remarkable, and I can honestly and without doubt say that I have met very few people that I admire as much as her. I’m not sure if this seems a little exaggeratory or superfluous, but I can only say that she is someone that you need to know to believe.
And I know that I am not the only student that feels this way. Many of Professor Daulatzai’s students, myself included, have fought their universities for her to secure a more permanent position. At Brown, we wrote letters to the administration, saturated with our individual experiences with Anila. We scheduled meetings with university officials while we were all swamped with exams during the pinnacle of finals week – to express how crucial of a role Professor Daulatzai played in our collegiate experience, to let them know how much pain it caused for us to see her go. And that’s the thing about Anila Daulatzai: there’s just something exceptional about her. Something so exceptional that her students are more than willing to spend their time and energies fighting for her, because we know that ultimately, the bodies of knowledge and understandings that she has imparted on us are things that we could never repay her for.
And we will not stop fighting for her: not then, not now.
During one of my last conversations with Professor Daulatzai, I remember her telling me that we people of color should not get too comfortable in this country. That at the end of the day, we mean nothing to this nation, this government, this institutionalized system. How our blood is too cheap, our bodies are too worthless – they will easily and without hesitation be discarded.
How heartbreakingly ironic this conversation seems now, as I rewatch her body, which officials knew to be one carrying a baby, being violently grabbed, thrown, and dragged around.
Southwest Airlines prides itself for its cheap national flights, which are especially appealing to students. Southwest, here is what I want you to know: we are not interested in cheap flights if that entails that the bodies of people of color and Muslims are also so cheap.
If our bodies are able to be yanked out of our seats so violently, if even the mention of pregnancy is not enough for undue violence to be used against us, if our narratives are erased and subject to whitewashed cover-ups: then we do not care for your cheap flights.
We do not care for your so-called Southern hospitality (which is either fictitious, or only applicable to a certain kind of people).
We do not care for your service.
We demand that Southwest Airlines issue an official apology, not some staged cover-up, to Anila Daulatzai, acknowledging the racist and Islamophobic roots of this horrible incident.
We demand that Southwest Airlines condemn police brutality.
We demand that Southwest Airlines implement anti-racism, anti-Islamophobia, and implicit biases trainings for all of its employees working on its aircrafts.
We demand justice for Anila Daulatzai. We demand justice for passengers of color, Muslim passengers, and passengers racialized as Muslims that are subject to this form of institutionalized Islamophobia and racism.
Until these demands are met, we refuse to fly on an airline that treats people of color and Muslims in this way. We refuse to be profiled. We refuse to be complicit in and happy consumers of institutionalized Islamophobia and racism: systems of oppression that result in violence against black, person of color, and Muslim bodies.
Sri Lankan Muslims To Fast In Solidarity With Fellow Christians
On Sunday morning Sri Lankan Christians went to their local churches for Easter services, as they have done for centuries. Easter is a special occasion for Christian families in ethnically diverse Sri Lanka. A time for families to gather to worship in their churches, and then to enjoy their festivities. Many went to their local church on Sunday morning to be followed by a traditional family breakfast at home or a local restaurant.
It would have been like any other Easter Sunday for prominent mother-daughter television duo, Shanthaa Mayadunne and Nisanga Mayadunne. Except that it wasn’t.
Nisanga Mayadunne posted a family photograph on Facebook at 8.47 AM with the title “Easter breakfast with family” and had tagged the location, the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. Little would she have known that hitting ‘post’ would be among the last things she would do in this earthly abode. Minutes later a bomb exploded at the Shangri-La, killing her and her mother.
In more than a half a dozen coordinated bomb blasts on Sunday, 360 people have been confirmed dead, with the number expected to most likely rise. Among the dead are children who have lost parents and mothers & fathers whose families will never be together again.
Many could not get past the church service. A friend remembers the service is usually so long that the men sometimes go outside to get some fresh air, with women and children remaining inside – painting a vivid and harrowing picture of the children who may have been within the hall.
Perpetrators of these heinous crimes against their own faith, and against humanity have been identified as radicalised Muslim youth, claiming to be part of a hitherto little-known organisation. Community leaders claim with much pain of how authorities were alerted years ago to the criminal intent of these specific youth.
Mainstream Muslims have in fact been at the forefront not just locally, but also internationally in the fight against extremism within Muslim communities. This is why Sri Lankan Muslims are especially shaken by what has taken place when men who have stolen their identity commit acts of terror in their name. Sri Lankan Muslims and Catholics have not been in conflict in the past, adding to a palimpsest of reasons that make this attack all the more puzzling to experts. Many here are bewildered as to what strategic objective these terrorists sought to achieve.
Sri Lankan Muslims Take Lead
Sri Lankan Muslims, a numerical minority, though a well-integrated native community in Sri Lanka’s colourful social fabric, seek to take lead in helping to alleviate the suffering currently plaguing our nation.
Promoting love alone will not foster good sustainable communal relationships – unless it is accompanied by tangible systemic interventions that address communal trigger points that could contribute to ethnic or religious tensions. Terror in all its forms must be tackled in due measure by law enforcement authorities.
However, showing love, empathy and kindness is as good a starting point in a national crisis as any.
Sri Lankan Muslims have called to fast tomorrow (Thursday) in solidarity with their fellow Christian and non-Christian friends who have died or are undergoing unbearable pain, trauma, and suffering.
#MyFastMySriLanka Terror at its heart seeks to divide, to create phases of grief that ferments to anger, and for this anger to unleash cycles of violence that usurps the lives of innocent men, women, and children. Instead of letting terror take its course, Sri Lankans are aspiring to come together, to not let terror have its way.
Together with my fellow Sri Lankan Muslims, I will be fasting tomorrow from dawn to dusk. I will be foregoing any food and drink during this period.
It occurs to many of us that it is unconscientious to have regular days on these painful days when we know of so many other Sri Lankans who have had their lives obliterated by the despicable atrocities committed by terrorists last Sunday. Fasting is a special act of worship done by Muslims, it is a time and state in which prayers are answered. It is a state in which it is incumbent upon us to be more charitable, with our time, warmth and whatever we could share.
I will be fasting and praying tomorrow, to ease the pain and suffering of those affected.
I will be praying for a peaceful Sri Lanka, where our children – all our children, of all faiths – can walk the streets without fear and have the freedom to worship in peace.
I will be fasting tomorrow for my Sri Lanka. I urge you to do the same.
Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ. Surah Maidah
My Heart Shook In New Zealand
One would imagine that a person would be dead-tired and ready to crash in his bed after a grueling, 36-hour journey from Christchurch, New Zealand to Washington, DC. And I will admit, that was the way I felt. Yet somehow, all my somnolence vanished as soon as my head rested on my pillow and I closed my eyes to rest. A wave of recollections fell over me: memories of the survivors, the emotions they expressed, and their feelings of an uncertain future as they planned their lives after the loss of their family members. These feelings instantly took away all the desire to get rest and sleep. I sit upright now and begin writing this reflection of a once in a lifetime experience- a voyage of grief and hope to Aotearoa- land of the white cloud as the indigenous people call New Zealand.
With lost baggage, long flights and too many connections, at times it seemed unlikely that my eldest son Moaz and I would make it to Jumm’ah and Janazah prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand. But Allah accepted our prayers so that we could fulfill the guidelines set by our beloved, the Prophet Muhammad . We were able to fulfill one of the rights of a Muslim over the others; that when he is sick visit him, and when she dies, offer her funeral and be part of her burial.
Hagley Cricket Ground was supposed to have a cricket test match between Bangladesh and New Zealand that Friday. Commentators reckon that it would have been the final day of that test match. But the 22nd of March 2019, brought a much bigger crowd to this world-famous cricket ground than what anyone would have seen on the final day of that test match.
Officials and security directed us towards the VIP area as they wanted to pay respect to the guests who traveled all the way from the USA, Canada, and Australia. The environment of love, solidarity, and respect, coupled with the hijab-clad women standing in solidarity with Muslims in that enormous crowd, created an impact which cannot be articulated by mere words. Every single uniformed female officer was carrying their firearm while donning a hijab; creating a welcoming gesture in a rather somber and gloomy atmosphere.
I do not have the words to thank the leadership of Charity Australia and the Islamic Forum of Australian Muslims (IFAM) for providing us with logistics, facilitating meeting the families of the “shuhudaa” (martyrs) and arranging to visit those injured in the tragedy. ICNA, Helping Hand, and Charity Australia banners highlighting the slogans of “American Muslims stand in solidarity with Victims of Christchurch New Zealand” were the center of attention for thousands of local New Zealanders gathered in solidarity that day. Their hugs, sincere prayers and tearful eyes were the greatest gift that I want to share with everyone reading these reflections.
Right after Jumm’ah, the majority of the crowd attended the collective Janazah prayer of 27 of the martyrs. In those emotional moments, I met with the most courageous woman on earth, the wife of 51-year-old Shaheed Naeem and the mother of 21-year-old Talha Naeem, the two spirited souls who gave their lives to save others in the mosque that day. She is one of the strongest women I have ever met. She mentioned that her husband, Naeem, was a person who lived the life of a man of service, always ready to help others. She described Talha as an angel who was too pious and too noble to be away from Jannah too long. We heard similar feelings from Naeem’s mother (grandmother of Talha) the next day when we visited their home.
The visit to the home of New Zealand’s national soccer team player, Atta Elayyan (33), was not only emotional but also deeply inspiring. Atta lost his life and his father (the founder of Al-Noor Masjid) was severely injured during this brutal and hateful attack. There were several scholars from the United States, including Sheikh Omer Suleiman, in the visit to Atta’s home. We could offer nothing to console the brave mother of this shaheed, who greeted us with words of courage and wisdom. We had no words to accompany the tears in our eyes, except prayers for the most noble young man who helped so many in coming close to Allah .
Our visits to Al-Noor Masjid and the Linwood Islamic Center were also filled with memories of love, harmony, and reverence. There was a continuous influx of hundreds of visitors, not only from New Zealand, but also from different countries including, but not limited to, Australia, Fiji, and Canada. Thousands and thousands of flower bouquets and other items of love were left by these visitors. I was really thrilled to see that local Muslims left many Qur’ans and flyers with basic concepts of Islam and addressing the common misconceptions about Islam for those visiting. I witnessed many people visiting these mosques were taking those Qur’ans and other books with them in order to learn more about Islam.
We also met Mr. Aziz, the unsung hero who repeatedly attacked the killer with different objects including an empty gun —which the killer had discarded. The terrorist fired on Aziz multiple times, but Allah not only saved him, but he also forced the killer to flee from the Linwood Islamic Center. Mr. Aziz was one of the reasons why the number of casualties in this mosque was only seven, compared to the 43 martyrs in Masjid Al-Noor. We also met certain individuals whom Allah saved miraculously. A young man showed his trousers fenestrated with holes of bullets but had no signs of injury. The husband and wife who entered the premises of the mosque and only to be showered with a burst of 26 bullets while in their car, leaving it completely destroyed. Yet Allah saved both of them while they took shelter in their vehicle.
The visit to the hospital’s ICU was simply heartbreaking but at the same time increased our resolve and commitment to help these families as much as possible. We encountered a Turkish brother who was in a coma for nine days and met his elderly parents, who spoke to us in the very little English they knew. The only thing which we could understand from their hushed voices was the request for du’a and tears of helplessness in their eyes. The 71-year-old father of a local Pakistani from Hafizabad, who had arrived two weeks ago to visit his son, was now on a ventilator fighting for his life. As a physician who has worked in ICU settings for a long time, I simply did not have enough medical reasoning which could have provided him any words of hope!! Similarly, I was not able to provide any glimmer of hope to a brother from Bangladesh whose wife will never be able to walk again and will be paralyzed for the rest of her life.
While I saw hope and felt resilience from every victim in that hospital, this hospital visit was brutally heartbreaking.
Lastly, I cannot imagine the pain, agony, and helplessness that the father of Mucad Ibrahim must feel after losing his 3-year-old son in his own arms. I gave him the longest hug possible, as he taught the whole world the meaning of Beautiful Sabr (Patience).
After seeing the devastation caused by the terrorist attack, and the work that must still be done to heal the community, Helping Hand USA, ICNA Relief Canada, and Charity Australia have formed an organization called the “Christchurch Family Support Network”. The operations have already begun, and our team is on the ground. The first group of mental health professionals with a background in Islamic Integrated counseling are set to leave to provide victims and their families immediate psychological assistance.
We ask Allah to accept our work, bring healing to the community, protect our brothers and sisters, and accept the shuhadaa’ in the highest level of Paradise.
Because Muslims Matter | Honoring The Martyrs Of #Christchurch
As the days go by, it is easy to forget the names and faces of the people who passed away. The horror of the act eclipses their memories. We do not want that to happen to our brothers and sisters in New Zealand.
اللهُـمِّ اغْفِـرْ لِحَيِّـنا وَمَيِّتِـنا وَشـاهِدِنا ، وَغائِبِـنا ، وَصَغيـرِنا وَكَبيـرِنا ، وَذَكَـرِنا وَأُنْثـانا. اللهُـمِّ مَنْ أَحْيَيْـتَهُ مِنّا فَأَحْيِـهِ عَلى الإِسْلام ،وَمَنْ تَوَفَّـيْتَهُ مِنّا فَتَوَفَّـهُ عَلى الإِيـمان ، اللهُـمِّ لا تَحْـرِمْنـا أَجْـرَه ، وَلا تُضِـلَّنا بَعْـدَه
Allaahum-maghfir lihayyinaa, wa mayyitinaa, wa shaahidinaa, wa ghaa’ibinaa, wa sagheerinaa wa kabeerinaa, wa thakarinaa wa ‘unthaanaa..
O Allah forgive our living and our dead, those who are with us and those who are absent, our young and our old, our menfolk and our womenfolk…