Arabic speaking

Islamophobia: Wrestling with the subjective from Southwest Airlines to Latvia

Islamophobia: Wrestling with the subjective from Southwest Airlines to Latvia

My GetReligion colleague Bobby Ross Jr. published a post last week about the removal of a California man from a Southwest Airlines flight after another passenger overheard him speak Arabic and became concerned. If you missed the Southwest saga, click here for an Associated Press report on the incident.

Bobby's focus was that the line between irrational Islamophobia and rational precaution is often fuzzy, and that journalists sometimes rush to assume the former because "we journalists love victims."

Good point. The white-hat-versus-black-hat trope is a journalism classic.

Now let's state this issue of subjective judgement another way: Given how complicated the question of when-is-it and when-isn't-it Islamophobia can become, should journalists even try to discern between the two in what we quaintly refer to as straight, or hard, news stories, beyond the he-said, she-said level? I don't think so.

In the case of an airline about to take off, I find it difficult to argue against putting group passenger safety over all other concerns. That includes taking the risk of showing ignorance or acting insensitively toward one or more Muslim or Arab-speaking passengers in a highly sensitive, ethnically, racially and politically charged setting.

I'm not an Arabic speaker, Muslim or person or color so perhaps I'm just not as sensitive to this issue as I might be if I were any of these things. Let me also stipulate that I fly to Israel often and I can recall on more than one occasion mentally frowning when I thought some non-Israeli airline was being lax in its pre-boarding security checks.

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'Islamophobia': In reports on student kicked off Southwest flight, there's that term again

'Islamophobia': In reports on student kicked off Southwest flight, there's that term again

We journalists love victims.

Victims make for easy stories and enticing clickbait.

For one example, see GetReligion's posts on this week's alleged-gay-slur-on-a-cake-sold-by-Whole-Foods brouhaha: here and here.

For another, perhaps you've heard about the college student who was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for the crime of ... speaking Arabic.

To read the news reports, it seems obvious that the student is a victim of "Islamophobia." Yes, that vague, undefined term shows up in most of these stories with no real explanation of what it means. Again.

If you're a regular reader of GetReligion, you know how we feel about that.

The only problem: When you read the full details of what happened in the latest scenario, it becomes a bit more complicated than the simple headlines.

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