By Murad Karim
How we got here
Muslims generally already understand the difficulty of flying after 9-11. We have to think 100 times before we fly, let alone take flying lessons. We hear the words â€œrandomly selected for additional security proceduresâ€ with astounding regularity at airports. And unfortunately some of our co-religionists seem eager to destroy OUR lives by doing outrages and sticking the label â€œIslamâ€ or â€œJihadâ€ on them.
And all this controversy has led us to the point where Backscatter X-rays which can see through clothing have been installed in many airports.
Muslims wonâ€™t use the naked machines
For non-Muslims who read this, you should know that Islamically it has been (to my knowledge) universally agreed by scholars of different Muslim sectarian affiliations that backscatter is unacceptable to Muslims religiously. What modesty is left when someone has a full naked picture of you? Itâ€™s not for nothing that Muslims wear a lot of clothesâ€”modesty is a mark of our faith. And this modesty is flaunted by a machine that sees through clothing. Therefore pious Muslims will overwhelmingly opt for the â€œpat-downâ€ over the naked machine. Which raises the question whether you still believe it is a good idea to have those machinesâ€”obviously they were aimed at Muslims.
Some have said that the backscatter x-rays do not actually show full images of peopleâ€™s genitalia, but the reality is that all of the machines capture raw images that are perfectly accurate, of genitalia. The only question is whether the machine then through software blurs or hides the genitalia in order to protect the modesty of the person under the microscope.
Serious questions about the backscatter machines
Children, old peopleâ€¦ in fact everyoneâ€¦ will be revealed fully naked under the backscatter machines. Some have challenged the machines on the basis of child pornography laws. Another issue is whether seeing hundreds of people of all different body types all day long will suck the morality out of whoever is assigned to the task.
Pilots, who have everything to gain from enhanced security, are balking because aside from considerations of modestyâ€”the machines have not been studied for their long term health effects and they do administer a small dose of radiation every time they are used. Pilots routinely suffer more bombardment by radiation because of the height at which their airliners fly, so the added risk from backscatter could for them be a tipping point, pushing them into greater risk.
The chorus of non-Muslim complaints about the heavy handed genitalia groping that goes under the name â€œpat downâ€ raises the question whether such a practice is viable long-term. This also raises the question whether groping genitalia all day long will completely suck the morality out of a TSA employee assigned the task. Inevitably there will be intentional sexual groping during pat downs, as the line between patting someoneâ€™s genitalia for air safety and patting someoneâ€™s genitalia for personal enjoyment is microscopically thin. How will the government and TSA respond to such allegations?
Donâ€™t believe those who say that the backscatter machines canâ€™t be used to see a personâ€™s normal image and naked image at the same time. I have seen pornography based on airport backscatter scans. The backscatter machines are designed to display a naked person to an operator in one room, not in direct eye contact with the actual subject of the scanâ€”however a TSA employee with a video camera can easily pan back and forth between the clothed person and their naked image (which are of course in close proximity although not directly next to each other), thus defeating the backscatter machineâ€™s policies designed to â€œprotectâ€ privacy despite the tremendous invasion of privacy that is the foundation of the machinesâ€™ effectiveness. The video tape I saw was made by a TSA employee who held a video camera and walked back and forth between the backscatter video image and the place where the subject was undergoing the scan. Not particularly titillating, but then again that actually in part depends on how attractive or famous or well known the backscattered person is.
All of this raises the question whether it is possible to have mutually consensual pat downs. For example, when you get to the airport you could choose from a variety of available TSA agents, marry the one you choose, and then undergo the pat down analysis before a quick divorce and the continuation of oneâ€™s journey. There are legal implications here as well, of courseâ€”because many travellers have pre-existing romantic and marital relations which would be interfered with. Polygamy becomes an issue. Also unfortunately same-sex liaisons would likely be encouraged. Other important issues are related, such as birth control, prostitution, and abortion. I doubt that TSA employs enough attractive people to satisfy the millions of travelers, and any existing attractive TSA employees would of course be quickly inundated with pat down requests, which would likely prompt them to quit. Perhaps we could have a red light district in each airport, where TSA employees are on display and travelers can choose their favorite pat-down specialist. Or alternatively travelers could be on display, and TSA employees could pick.
Potentially the new procedures will attract a whole new kind of employee to the TSA, attracted by the opportunity to grope hundreds of people per day, or to see hundreds naked every day.
Or maybe we should create an Islamic American airline for all Muslim travelers. No pat downs, no x-ray machines, and hopefully no point in terrorism since the victims would be Muslim. Of course the upside is that many non-Muslims would opt to travel with Muslims, thinking Muslims wonâ€™t blow each other up anywayâ€”and some of them likely thinking itâ€™s better to risk a hijacking than a prison sexual search administered by TSA guards.
Or maybe we should just get rid of airplanes altogether.