Scene: A US Airways jet full of people, including a half-dozen Muslim clerics fresh from a large meeting of the same in Minneapolis, and Mr. and Mrs. Bigot. As the plane sits on the tarmac, the imams begin to pray, as is their wont to do several times a day. Mr. and Mrs. Bigot, a liver-spotted couple, are sitting right in front of at least some of the imams. Alarmed, the Bigots turn around and stare with sour expressions. The Bigots, of course, are church-going Christians and they contribute regularly to the Minnesota Family Council. They are xenophobic about anybody who isn't who isn't white—or Lutheran.
Imams: God is great. There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger. Alu Akbar!
Mr. Bigot: [turning around] Dear God, Mavis! Did you hear that?
Mrs. B: [also turning around] Yes, Fred! The nerve of these people! Disturbing the Muzak!
Mr. B: Mavis! They're kinda darkies with beards!
Mrs. B: Oh no! They must be terrorists! Do something Fred!
[the imams continue praying, ignoring the slack-jawed Bigots staring at and shouting over them]
Mr. B: All right! I'll call 911. You keep an eye on 'em, Mavis! [Fred dials the phone, then moves away, giving the hairy eyeball to the imams to make sure they don't ravage Mavis, then speaking into the phone] We have an emergency! There are terrorists on our airplane!
911: Keep calm sir! Where is your plane enroute to, and do you know the airline and flight number?
Mr. B: We're still on the ground in Minneapolis.
911: Have the terrorists entered the cockpit?
Mr. B: Well no.
911: Have they taken any flight attendants or passengers as hostages?
Mr. B: Not yet.
911: Not yet? Well what have they done?
Mr. B: They're praying.
911: [hysterical laughter] They're praying?
Mr. B: Yes. What's so funny? What's your name, young man?
Mr. B: Oh no! Another damn heathen!
911: Look mister, Muslims pray a lot. It's what we do. It's kind of a habit. If you really have a concern, talk to a member of the crew or the pilot. The pilot makes the final decision whether to take off.
Mr. B: Thanks for nothing! [click] Oh Miss! We have a serious problem here!
Attendant: What's the matter, sir?
Mr. B: Those swarthy fellows behind my Mavis there were talking about a plot to hijack this airplane!
Attendant: Follow me sir! We'll talk to the pilot right away! [they hurry into the cockpit] Captain! My Captain! The plane is about to be hijacked!
Mr. B: She's right! I heard these Middle Eastern guys talk about how they were gonna take over the airplane and fly it nose first into a corn field! Really threatening, I tell you!
Pilot: Are you sure they said that?
Mr. B: Absolutely! Or words to that effect!
Pilot: I'm going to check this out. [making his way down the aisles to the imams] Afternoon, gentlemen. This fella here says you were talking about hijacking this airplane and crashing it.
1st imam: What? I have a wife and three children who are expecting me home for a late dinner.
2nd imam: What did this fellow [indicating Mr. B] tell you?
Pilot: Never mind what he told me. Are you planning to hijack this plane?
1st imam: This question is too absurd to answer. I will not dignify it with an answer.
2nd imam: I'll answer it: NO. We are two Muslim clergy headed home after a conference here in Minneapolis. We are each the leader of a congregation of Muslims and have been for many years. I agree with my friend that your question is insulting. We are both, in fact, US citizens. Now leave us in peace.
[a small crowd has gathered around now, and some of the group have trays or plastic cutlery that they have gotten from the galley]
A crowd member brandishing a plastic fork: Get those damn Ay-rabs off this plane! I ain't flying if they do! [there is a chorus of "yeah, right!" and "get 'em off the plane!"]
Pilot: Fellas, I am sorry to ask, but will you please catch another flight? It's pretty clear we aren't gonna get out of here with you on the plane.
1st imam: Are you crazy? We're not the ones who went berserk. Let them get off.
The same crowd member: I ain't getting' off! I have a non-refundable ticket! Who do you think I am? John goddam D. Rockefeller?
Pilot: I'm sorry gentlemen, you'll have to go. I'm the pilot, and I have to make the final decision about whether it is safe to take off. I take that responsibility very seriously. I don't want the plane hijacked, but I also don't want you fellas lynched while we're in the air. There's a bunch of them and only a few of you. Come on. Help me out here.
2nd imam: We appreciate your position, but we cannot leave as a matter of principle.
Pilot: I'm really sorry, gentlemen. But I'll have to call the authorities to take you off of this airplane.
This is, of course, Spot's imagining of the situation the led to the removal of the imams that Katie writes about so movingly again Thursday. The imams, you see, have started a lawsuit against US Airways and the Metropolitan Airports Commission. Katie finds the suit shocking, of course, but she reserves especial outrage for the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Bigot were named as John Doe defendants:
The "flying imams' " federal lawsuit, filed this week in Minneapolis, has made headlines around the country. The imams are demanding unspecified damages from US Airways and the Metropolitan Airports Commission, both with deep pockets. But their suit includes other defendants, as yet unnamed. These people, unaffiliated with the airline industry or government, are among the imams' most vulnerable targets.
But the most alarming aspect of the imams' suit is buried in paragraph 21 of their complaint. It describes "John Doe" defendants whose identity the imams' attorneys are still investigating. It reads: "Defendants 'John Does' were passengers ... who contacted U.S. Airways to report the alleged 'suspicious' behavior of Plaintiffs' performing their prayer at the airport terminal."
Paragraph 22 adds: "Plaintiffs will seek leave to amend this Complaint to allege true names, capacities, and circumstances supporting [these defendants'] liability ... at such time as Plaintiffs ascertain the same."
In plain English, the imams plan to sue the "John Does," too.
Who are these unnamed culprits? The complaint describes them as "an older couple who was sitting [near the imams] and purposely turn[ed] around to watch" as they prayed. "The gentleman ('John Doe') in the couple ... picked up his cellular phone and made a phone call while watching the Plaintiffs pray," then "moved to a corner" and "kept talking into his cellular phone."
In retribution for this action, the unnamed couple probably will be dragged into court soon and face the prospect of hiring a lawyer, enduring hostile questioning and paying huge legal bills. The same fate could await other as-yet-unnamed passengers on the US Airways flight who came forward as witnesses.
Congratulation Katie, for finding this allegation, even though it was somehow "buried" in the complaint! A genuine sleuth!
Spotty doesn't know about you, boys and girls, but he doesn't feel the slightest bit sorry for the liver-spotted Mr. and Mrs. Bigot. They and the other people aboard the airplane who raised a ruckus ought to be confronted with an opportunity to reflect on their conduct. Spot hopes they get the chance.
And Katie, why don't you, and maybe Johnny Rocketseed, and Scotty Johnson provide a pro bono defense for the Bigots? That seems fair.
Tags: Katherine Kersten, flying imams, CAIR