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Is Flying While Brown the New Driving While Black?


The paranoid calls to profile Muslims on airplanes have become louder in recent days.  Here’s a story from 2008 that ought to make us think twice about such an un-American response (hat tip: KevinMD.com):

Doctor Flying Southwest Tries To Go To Bathroom, Ends Up In Jail

A 65-year-old urologist, born in India but living in the United States for 38 years now, was flying from his home in Missouri to a medical convention in Las Vegas on June 26th, 2008. Did you notice that “born in India” detail? Apparently his attempts to go to the bathroom angered and frightened a flight attendant, who wouldn’t tell Dr. Sivaprasad Madduri why he couldn’t use the lavatory (the pilot was using it) and who wouldn’t listen to Dr. Madduri’s explanation that he was taking a medicine that acts as a diuretic. When the plane landed he was arrested, spent the night in jail, and was told the next day to plead guilty and pay $2500 if he wanted a quick resolution.

Southwest has since told Dr. Madduri, “We don’t want this experience to affect your feelings about flying with us in the future,” and they’ve offered him a $100 voucher. It turns out the “apology” was meant for the other passengers, and was in fact about Dr. Madduri.

From Rediff:

Ironically, even before he filed his complaint with the Southwest Airlines officials, he got a letter from Frederick Taylor Jr, senior manager at the airline’s customer service communications, offering a $100 voucher for a future flight.

“Sometimes, an explanation for the reason why things happen is not always possible, and the bizarre behaviour of the individual during your June 26 flight to Las Vegas supports this point,” Taylor said in a letter accompanying the voucher. “While I am unable to explain the circumstances surrounding the disruption, I think it is important to offer my heartfelt apologies for any concerns you may have had as a result of this event”.

“Naturally, we don’t want this experience to affect your feelings about flying with us in the future, or for it to be your last recollection of traveling with our company. In fact we would consider it a privilege if you gave us another opportunity to provide you with better memories.”

Here’s Dr. Madduri’s story in his own words:

[I am] a physician from India who immigrated to the United States 38 years ago and [has] been in private practice in South East Missouri for more than a quarter century.

On June 26, 2008, I traveled from St Louis to Las Vegas to attend AAPI annual convention by Southwest flight 1226. Two hours into the flight, I tried to go to the bathroom ( I take a blood pressure medicine with diuretic that makes one ‘go’ more often). As I was sitting in row six, I walked to the front lavatory. The flight attendant, named Lora Lee Minton, abruptly stopped me and essentially shouted at me, “Go back! This bath room is occupied, and you cannot stand here.”

Shocked and dumbfounded at this unfriendly behavior, I went back and sat in my seat. Two minutes later, I saw the lavatory door opening and I got up and walked towards the bath room again. The same flight attendant (Lora Lee Minton) screamed at me, “I told you not to go to that bathroom,” and started pushing me into my seat. I was totally confused at this erratic behavior, and told her that I had been taking medicine and I had to go to the toilet. I even tried to walk past Ms.Minton as I was very uncomfortable.

“I told you not to go,” she pushed me into my seat! I was lost. I flew many times but had never experienced a rude and unfriendly behavior like this. Confused and not knowing what to do, I went back and sat in my seat. I saw the pilot came out of the lavatory, walked into the cockpit and closed the door behind him. Later I could use the bathroom.

The sequence of events that followed were more frightening and beyond the scope of any one’s imagination. As the plane landed in Las Vegas , I was escorted by two police officers and was handed over to the FBI. The FBI interrogated me at length and for the first time, I was told that the flight attendant, Ms.Lora Lee Minton, reported that I was causing ‘disturbance’ during the flight. I was also told that when the pilot is out of the cockpit, no one is supposed get up from their seat, till the pilot goes back to his seat. This apparently is a federal law being enforced since 9/11 and no one ever told me, nor was it announced during the flight.

That night I was taken through federal centers for further investigation. I was hand-cuffed, finger printed and was ‘processed’ as a common criminal. I was told repeatedly that my background was checked and I had no criminal record. Even after checking my back ground and even after confirming it by calling my family members (Our two children that live in St Louis and Houston, Texas ) and my professional partner (urologist from Poplar Bluff, Missouri ), I still had to go through the harassment. I was dragged through Federal court buildings that night with hand and ankle cuffs, left in cells for hours before I was interrogated and was threatened repeatedly with abusive language: ‘Shut up,’ ‘I am going to kick your ass,’ to name a few. Finally I was taken to a federal detention center in Las Vegas and was ushered into a large jail cell! I spent the night in jail with 43 prisoners – most of them drug dealers and picked up at street fights!

The next day I went through processing in a federal court building and presented in front of a Federal Judge. The public defender told me that my ‘case’ was decided and I would be released if I pleaded guilty and paid a fine of $2,500. He also told me that I could refuse to plead guilty, contest the judgment and even could win, but could be taking a long time, cost more and might result in multiple trips to Las Vegas.

Exhausted, depressed and completely deflated, I agreed to what ever the public defender suggested and got out after 24 hours of ‘living hell’.

I endured the most horrifying and traumatic 24-hours of my life for a crime I sincerely believe I did not commit. A simple statement by the flight attendant (Lora Lee Minton) in normal tone of voice that I was not supposed to wait in front of the toilet when it was occupied by the pilot, would have saved the ghastly ordeal.

I was told repeatedly by the prison guards, some of the FBI officials (not all of them were rude), the prison inmates who heard my story that the reason I was targeted was because of my skin color (brown) and ethnic background (South Asian, Indian).

When I returned home, I did not feel like lying flat and take the abuse, more so the incident involved not only me but an entire race and ethnic group. I sent my story to local, state and national news papers including all the major Indian news publications. The response was overwhelming: the news papers were very receptive; I received numerous e-mails, letters, phone-calls, sympathy and supportive cards; every one wanted me to ‘fight-it-out’ and ‘not to keep quite and do nothing.’

I did send my story to ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of Missouri and Nevada , yet I haven’t heard from them yet, though I was told that my experience had merit. I contacted attorneys locally as well as in St Louis and was told that they were looking for proper attorneys that specialize in civil liberties cases; I was told by some that I should not have pleaded guilty and should find eye-witnesses that would testify in my favor.

During 30 years of my stay in America , I never felt so threatened nor my rights so violated as I did that fateful night. ‘You are not guilty until proven otherwise’, the anthem we are made to believe all the time was turned out to be not true; I was guilty until prove my self innocent. I was treated like a guilty person and was never given a chance even to tell my side of the story. Even after the incidence, I am finding it difficult to prove my innocence. I want Southwest Air Lines to realize their mistake and drop charges against me. I did contact Southwest airlines and was informed that they were standing by their stewardess and the issue had no racial profile or bias.

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  • Aker

    We should boycott Southwest Airlines. Point this article out to everyone you know.

  • John thomas

    I’m white and have been treated just as rudely. In fact after a 3 hour interrogation in Philadelphia by TSA, whose only questions were related to whether I was muslim, thought about converting, had visited a mosque while in morrocco, finally a customs agent with more brains than all the TSA combined got me on a flight home. A week or so later I got a letter from TSA telling me i was being fined $2500 but it would be mitigated to $250 and could be reduced to $125 if i paid it within a week. I told them quite frankly to go F**k themselves and haven’t heard from them again in the 6 years since.

    If you are not guilty of something, don’t plead guilty, especially if you are a Doctor and can afford your own lawyer why would you plead guilty that day at the bequest of a public defender? It seems the good doctor used equally poor judgment as the flight attendant if this story is to be 100% believed

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  • I absolutely just don’t get it

    Exactly Danios! A couple of weeks ago the taliban blew up a MOSQUE because Pakistani militants were praying in there!!! Is this jihad? No! Who the hell gives them the right over God’s house?

    @Arab Business. No I’m not singling out men. I’m just saying women are way more sensitive to this kind of stuff.

  • Sir David

    Its all about power not religion.
    Misguided dupes blow themselves up or at least try too. The puppet masters dont mind if they do or not. The ¨West¨reacts and the puppet masters say told you so ,they are evil crusaders. lots of guns get sold and round and round we go.
    Strange how its only the young people who get to do the die bit on both sides .
    Lets open a new front in Yemen ,US can give guns to the good tribes men Osama to the others , Saudi to its friends and Iran to the Shia tribes.
    Overtime at the munition factories anyone?

  • Danios,The word :Jihad:should be taken out from the Quran .It is a form of legalised TERRORISM.All the achievements of Islam are through terrorism.It has never contributed any thing constructive to the world.The role Model for Muslims claimed:I have been made victorious with TERROR:Sahih Bokhari 4 :52 220.Read it for your self.You can not separate ISLAM from terrorism.They are two sides of the same coin.THE COIN MINTED BY INSAN-E-KAMEL.

  • To “I absolutely just don’t get it”

    “Now completely innocent Muslims women who wear the hijab have to go through full body scans completely invading their privacy and defeating the purpose of the hijab.”

    Why did you only single out women? Completely innocent Muslim men too will have their privacy invaded. A man is not allowed to show his awrah under normal circumstances either, so if you think it’s a shame for a woman so it is for a man, as the body scan shows the non awrah parts of the man too.

    Showing your awrah is allowed unders certain circumstances, health and medical (patient doctor), security (niqabed women removing niqab for ID photos in driving licence and passport) for example.

    However, If the situation warrants, it isn’t a sin to go through a body scan because it is a necessity for security, it’s permissable.

  • Nabeela

    It’s a sad situation, and a worrying one.

    First of all, regardless of whatever fears she may have been harbouring, the flight attendant Lora Lee Minton was rude and her behaviour was unprofessional, if Dr Madduri’s version of the incident is the correct one. She could have asked him in a polite manner.

    The second point that needs to be highlighed is how difficult flying is going to be for people from certain countries. Already there is a list compiled of possible suspect countries, whose passengers will face body scans and long checks, making travel a real ordeal.

    At around $200,000 each, the full-body scanners are up to 10 times more expensive than the usual metal detectors. The airports are not happy to be lumbered with the extra cost, in a time when air travel is on the decline due to the recession. Britain has said all UK airports will have them, and passengers from a list of countries including South America, Nigeria, Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, will have to go through rigourous checks and a body scan.

    Thirdly, if the US hadn’t gone into Iraq, maybe this Al qaeda threat would have been diminished if not defeated. As it is they’re stronger now, spread out in Yemen, and also infested Pakistan through the Taliban, where they are seriously destabilising the country. The afghan president has no chance of ruling if he doesn’t make a deal with the Taliban.

    The irony is, if it were not for the US inteference in afghanistan, the Taliban would never have gained power. They’re an American creation. Even Afghani’s say, there were better off under Russian rule than the American installed Taliban.

    The joint effort by the UK and USA to train Yemeni police now isn’t going to help. This should have been done 25 years earlier, they’re too well entrenched now.

    What actually made this al qaeda problem worse now, is the fact that Saudi Arabia expelled a million or so Yemeni workers from their country. They’re also waging a war with Al Houthi rebels who they claimed attacked them.

    I can’t help questioning this policy of Saudi Arabia expelling it’s miscreants, first Bin Laden, who latched onto Afghanistan, then Somalia, and other corrupt African countries, and now the Yemeni’s into Yemen.

    Why was a Saudi citizen stripped of his citizenship and expelled? This would be like America, stripping Blackwater bosses of their citizenship and telling them to leave the country. If they had then set up bases in some poor African country, say Eritrea, or Angola, the world would be cursing and blaming America for expelling their problem instead of dealing with it at home.

    Shouldn’t the Muslim world be questioning why Saudi Arabia is exporting it’s problems into the world instead of dealing with them locally?

  • Danios

    I absolutely just don’t get it:

    “We don’t want jihad.”

    It really depends on how you define the word “jihad.” Most Muslims believe that the terrorists are doing anything *but* jihad.

    Sincerely,
    Danios.

  • I absolutely just don’t get it

    These stupid jihadis want to get back at America for god knows what reason by claiming they are doing “jihad” and “protecting” the Muslims. Ever since the three stooges bin laden, zawahiri and mullah omar have waged this completely pointless war Muslims have suffered greatly. Now completely innocent Muslims women who wear the hijab have to go through full body scans completely invading their privacy and defeating the purpose of the hijab. Islam is the blunt of a joke in the west. I only care about innocent Americans and Muslim caught in this. I am baffled at what is happening in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen because of people like this. You are NOT protecting the Afghanis, Pakistanis, or Yemenis rather you are helping America INVADE more Muslim countries. Any Muslim who wants to commit jihad against America should think twice and think about us Muslims who are suffering because of their selfishness and pride. We don’t want jihad.

  • iSherif

    Very saddening…it does look like things are going from bad to worse 🙁

  • Yes, wait for all the usual anti-Muslim crazies to come crawling out of the woodwork. Wait for the anti immigration crowd to use this misguided Nigerian boy as the PRIME reason to ban immigration.

    Be prepared for the right wing Zionist zealots to triumphantly claim,

    “we, were right all along. Global Jihad doesn’t understand dialogue, bombs and war is the language they understand”

    Whilst those who plot these attacks sit in Yemen or Somalia or Saudi Arabia, the rest of humanity has to suffer for their deeds.

    When are these asswipes going to realise what they are doing is WRONG? Does their Jihad include making passengers suffer at airports as they will now?

  • Dolly dolly dolly

    It seems that Dolly is VERY ignorant. So the kid’s family TELLS authorities that, hey my son has these extremist views please be careful and watch over his actions. The family did the right thing and left it to the authorities for they have the right knowledge about this kind of stuff. The kid stuffs this bomb in his underwear, somehow gets through airport security WITHOUT the authorities putting him on the no-fly list which he SHOULD HAVE been on and then epically fails at trying to kill innocent people. So Muslims are absolutely positively NOT to be blamed here. The family told authorities. PERIOD. PERIOD. PERIOD. The family did NOT hide it from authorities rather they TOLD the authorities. Again, Muslims are NOT to be blamed.

  • Dolly

    As messed-up as going on a plane with explosives in your underpants? Who exactly are the loons here?

  • Danios

    Mike, the point is that *they* thought he was mooslem or at least close enough.

    Leonora, I also found it amusing that he was a urologist. But yeah it’s messed up.

  • Leonora

    OMG, he’s a urologist. Is this an April fool’s joke?
    No, it’s messed up. I hope they fired that flight attendant. She’s the loon.

  • Mike H.

    But brown doesn’t equal Muslim!

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