Monday, February 15, 2010

Muslims Exempt from Airport Body Scanners Due to Religious Beliefs

On February 12, 2010 The Council on American-Islamic Relations ruled that Muslim travelers are exempt from going through airport security scanners due to their religious beliefs. This decision was made in response to a fatwa, or religious ruling, that was made by the Fiqh Council of North America regarding body scanners in airports. The Fiqh Council of North America is an association of Muslims who interpret Islamic law here in North America. According to the fatwa, “it is a violation of clear Islamic teachings that men or women be seen naked by other men and women.” This order forbids Muslim travelers from passing through full body scanners in airports because the scans violate religious rules on nudity. It adds, “Islam highly emphasizes haya (modesty) and considers it a part of faith. The Quran has commanded the believers, both men and women, to cover their private parts.”

The body scanners were implemented after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up a plane using the explosives he had placed in his underwear this past Christmas. As a result, in The United States there are currently 40 scanners in 19 airports, and by the end of this year, there could be as many as 450 scanners. The Transportation Security Administration said it is “committed to keeping passengers safe and insisted the scanners that show the outlines of a person’s body in graphic detail did not represent an invasion of privacy.”

Thanks to the ruling made by The Council on American-Islamic Relations, Muslims traveling in the United States will have the option of undergoing a pat down search by a security guard, rather than going through the body scanner. This decision "complicates efforts to intensify screening of potential terrorists who are Muslim.” It has enraged many people, as they feel it is unfair that Muslims have found a way to excuse themselves from the requirements of the law. In Britain, travelers who refuse to pass through the scanners could be banned from boarding. This is the mindset that most Americans agree with, as they have made obvious through their comments to news stations, websites, and radio shows. A popular response has been, “if Muslims don’t like our policies then they don’t have to fly our planes,” or “no scan, no fly.” But this brings about a constitutional issue, as the 1st Amendment guarantees the freedom of religion. Should Muslims be allowed to practice and exercise their religion if it goes against a law that is in effect to protect American citizens?

I feel that exempting Muslims from going through airport scanners has the potential of introducing a slippery slope. If they are excused from this, then what happens when Person A comes along and doesn’t feel comfortable having his nude body image exposed on the scanner? If Muslims are given an exemption, he is going to want to know why he doesn’t have the right to have the same exemption, and same with Persons B, C, D, etc. It seems counterproductive to have airport agents giving pat down searches to every traveler who feels offended by the body scanners, especially since pat down searches are not anywhere near as accurate as the body scanners. And what happens when travelers feel violated by the pat down searches?

The purpose of the scanners is to provide a method of ensuring safer flights and more secure air travel, which in today’s world is something that we cannot afford to risk. When it comes to matters of the safety and security of our nation, I think that law trumps religious beliefs, and I agree with those who say “no scan, no fly.”

Here is a video of an interview with the head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.


David I said...

I agree with Lauren on this issue. If one group faces preferential treatment, than many more will come forward arguing that it is their religious right to bypass body scanners. Citizens of the world need to realize that security in airports have changed in this post- 9/11 world. People are much more cautious and feel a greater need for security in regards to airplanes. While it is a nice thought that the TSA will allow pat-downs of passengers who refuse full-body scans, I do not believe that this is fair. If someone does not want to conform to security standards, than I do not think that they should fly.

Justin M said...
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Justin M said...

I agree that the security and safe travel of passengers on airplanes should be of primary importance in this case. That being said, I think that a better solution needs to be advanced than simply telling individuals that they can’t fly without going through a body scanner. It is definitely inefficient to provide separate checks for every individual who is uncomfortable with the body scanner. However, there is also something inherently wrong with limiting other individual’s lives simply because of their religious beliefs. Although there appears to be no alternative to this problem, without sacrificing security measures, I believe that in the near future different security measures will have to be taken. Therefore, I think that an equally secure yet less invasive security device will have to be adopted in the coming years.

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