Friday, July 16, 2004

Terror in the Skies?

A whole bunch of folks are linking to this story. Oh the The Volokh Conspiracy is linking too.

Can anyone think of a reason why groups of muslim men would cycle through both bathrooms on an airliner in flight? And synchronized like they all know when they have to do it. Very suspicious... Of course what do muslims do 5 times a day at set synchronized times? They pray. The woman's account includes a rolled up cloth "bag" which is removed from storage. This is likely that man's prayer rug. She also mentions another man reading from a little red book on the second occassion, this is likely a copy of the Koran.

Others have said "hey this happened on my flight too". Yes it did. Because this is what some observant muslims do when they have to pray on an airliner. Calm down folks.

Now is this important? Could Muslims organize some sort of terrorist act based around their prayer activites? Did the authorities react properly to the situation? They could use this as a pretext and the authorities didn't, which is why this story is important. But people, they were probably just a bunch of musicians praying!

Update: Just checked the typical times which are around noon and 5pm. Her flight left at 12:30 so they were probably boarding or in public at the first prayer time. They took it in the air instead. The flight was four and half hours long so they landed right around afternoon prayers, hence the commotion.

Comments: I just switched over to Haloscan for commenting and trackback. This means the original comments have unfortunately been lost when my blog republished. Sorry about that. If anyone knows how to make a copy of them I can throw onto this thread please let me know.


phaedrus said...

I would just like to point out -- having seen many airplane lavatories -- that there is hardly enough room to unroll a prayer mat on the floor of one, let alone attempt to kneel or prostrate oneself in the typical fashion.

Would they still bring it in if they knew there was not space to use it? Since they're unable to use it in the typical fashion, would they just stand on it?

Don't know. Just commentin'.

Craig said...

Well, I can't claim to be an expert on Muslim prayers, but I don't find this explanation entirely satisfactory:

--If they found the appropriate prayer time inappropriate because they were "in public" at the departure gate, why would the cramped environment of the airplane be more suitable? Prayer is not a lengthy ritual; wouldn't it have been just as easy to step aside while in the terminal? Easier to be sure of the direction you're facing, too.

--The notion of bringing a prayer rug into an airplane lavatory seems problematic. Unrolling such a rug on a bathroom floor and kneeling with your head next to a toilet would seem dissonant with notions of ritual cleanliness, if not physically painful.

--If one prayer could be deferred until in the air and reaching a safe cruising altitute, couldn't the second prayer have been deferred until back on the ground, avoiding the need to pray in the progressively degrading environment of that same lavatory after four hours of flight?

Again, not the expert. I will gladly accept edification from such. But the whole thing has got my ears up, and I can't consider that an over-reaction. If more of us had gotten our ears up three years ago, we might be living in a different world today.

Jeff the Baptist said...

Would you like to pray out load in a crowded airport when lots of people are looking at you? I wouldn't and I don't. I say the occassional prayer quietly to myself with bowed head, but in general I would rather not do a lot of kneeling, standing, etc with people staring at me if I can help it.

Also keep in mind that a prayer rug can be quite small. When I was in grad school a turkish guy I knew used a standard size pillow case. He was a normal sized guy and it was big enough for his needs. You really only need enough room to put the thing down and take off your shoes and socks. I agree that the cleanliness aspects might not be something to look forward to, but different strokes for different folks.

If they didn't want to pray in the airport before the flight (which is my guess), then why would they want to pray in a different airport afterwards? Answer they wouldn't and ther story is that their landing "prayers" are shorter than the takeoff ones which would be reasonable.

I'm not sure that I'm right. I have comments enabled because I want feedback like this. Thanks for commenting.

AST said...

Apparently Muslims are allowed to combine the noon and afternoon prayers when they are traveling. See

It seems to me that if you're trying to spread your faith, it makes no sense to behave in ways that arouse suspicion, especially when you know that there is a lot of fear engendered by terrorist attacks like 9/11.

If a religion doesn't allow you to extend courtesy as well as receive it, I'd say it's got a problem.

Armen said...

I'd pay $20 to read the story as written by one of the men. "So then as I was trying to put the bomb trigger together, this lady walked to where I was working..." (kidding).

Jerseygirl said...

Muslims would not pray in the bathroom. Bathrooms are 'unclean' places. They would wash up in the bathroom (called performing ablutions) and then pray quietly either in their seats, or standing in the aisle. You are supposed to kneel and prostrate yourself while praying, but it's OK to do it standing or sitting if you're in a place where that's not possible (like a plane).

Jerseygirl said...

Also, Muslims while traveling can defer the prayers, and 'double up' at the next prayer time after they reach their destination. But it's up to the individuals discretion, to make do in a less than ideal spot, or wait until later.