US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Lowe's, Delta, and disappointing decision making

Liz Lefebvre | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

In the wake of Lowe’s decision to pull its advertising from TLC’s “All-American Muslim,” another story of discrimination and hatred has arisen that highlights how fear and mistrust can somehow effectivley drown out voices of reason, even when these voices appear to represent a majority opinion.

Last week Lowe’s decided to remove its ads from “All-American Muslim,” supposedly as the result of pressure from the Florida Family Association (which seems to run by just a single individual) that claimed the show was hiding the “Islamic agenda” and its "dangers to American liberties." Many people of all shapes, sizes, and religions have pointed out some concerns with the situation, including some of the people on the show, who fail to see how their lives are controversial in any way.

On the heels of this incident, CNN reported an incident of “flying while Muslim.” Two men, imams Masudur Rahman and Mohamed Zaghloul, are suing Delta for discrimination after being removed from a flight on Monday.

The events of the story border on the realm of the absurd. After clearing routine TSA security checkpoints, the two men were pulled aside at their gate for a “random” search, where they provided their tickets and identification and were cleared to board. Once seated on the plane, employees again asked Rahman and Zaghloul for identification, and the men were again cleared to fly.

The plane had already started taxiing to the runway when the pilot announced the plane had to return to the gate. Upon the return, Rahman and Zaghloul were informed that they had to leave the flight and take their belongings with them.

The men were searched again, and cleared again to board the flight. The exchange that followed is best when read right from CNN’s report, involving back and forth between managers, supervisors, and the pilot:

The suit claims the pilot would not allow them on the plane and then refused to give a reason. A Delta supervisor went on the plane to explain to the pilot he could not exclude the men without "a rational basis," the suit said. When the supervisor returned, he was "irate," the suit said, and told them men, "He is wrong," referring to the pilot.

A higher-ranking Delta manager was requested, the suit said. But while the men waited for the manager to arrive, the plane left the gate.

According to the complaint, the airline manager ordered the plane back to the terminal, then boarded the plane to speak with the pilot. The manager returned, "visibly distraught," a half-hour later, according to the suit.

The manager told the men that the pilot, "despite acknowledging that both plaintiffs were cleared to board, was personally objecting to the plaintiffs being on his flight. The pilot indicated that he believed the mere presence and perception of the plaintiffs on his plane would make other passengers feel uncomfortable."

The Delta manager made an announcement in the cabin of the plane stating if any passengers felt apprehensive about either of the men then they could get on another plane and receive a voucher, the lawsuit stated. "Except for the pilot, however, no one else on that plane indicated that they were uncomfortable with either plaintiff being on the flight," the complaint said.

In the end, the plane left without Rahman and Zaghloul.

The good news is that no one on the plane felt uncomfortable with the two men being on the plane, and that the Delta officials were upset with the pilot’s attitude and decisions. Hooray! Score one for level-headed thinking. The bad news is that the attitude of the pilot ultimately won, as Rahman and Zaghloul did not end up on their flight.

Oh, and just where were Rahman and Zaghloul trying to get to? A conference on anti-Muslim bigotry in Charlotte, NC.

Perhaps the pilot should have (after allowing the men on board) accompanied them to the conference. Then they all could have made a short hop over to Lowe’s headquarters, located just outside Charlotte in Mooresville, NC, where a petition was delivered on Tuesday asking the company to reverse its decision about running ads on “All-American Muslim.”

200,000 people signed the petition. According to the Lowe’s representative who received the petition, Lowe’s was already contemplating pulling its ad before FFA stepped in, as a response to “negative chatter…on social networks.” Says Kristin Ford of Faith in Public Life, "More than nonsensical, this explanation is actually insulting to hundreds of thousands of people who are outraged by Lowe’s’ decision."

How is it that the voices of a few individuals (or a handful of social media users) seem to keep winning out over the widely held views of most Americans? If most people think like the other passengers flying to Charlotte, why is it that we keep hearing of Rahmans and Zaghlouls being discriminated against?

As Catholics, we are called to love our brothers and sisters. We are taught that we live as one human family regardless of national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. Let's hope that those who stand for acceptance and solidarity will be able to shout louder than those blinded by hatred and fear.