26/12/2016 11:54 AM IST | Updated 27/12/2016 11:02 AM IST

Adam Saleh Is Making Life Harder For Muslims Facing Discrimination

The YouTube star alleged he was thrown off a plane for speaking Arabic, but his claims are being refuted.

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I have a healthy disregard for religious intimidation masquerading as multiculturalism or acceptance. Yet, undeniably, people of different faiths, races, castes and creeds, especially Muslims, face relentless discrimination. People who do deny this should be in a basket of deplorables. From mosques being vandalised with "Jesus" graffiti, to a Muslim woman having her hijab ripped off on the Subway, and worse, the promise by the new President-elect of the US to bar Muslim immigration into the country (although we don't know if he'll keep it—as Noam Chomsky comments, "The most predictable aspect of Trump is his unpredictability." But airlines are the worst. This is no accident. The extreme symbolism of 9/11 changed the equation: crowded passenger airplanes—a symbol of American Innovation—being used as projectiles into skyscrapers—again, symbols of American prosperity and innovation—crowded with innocents.

I have utter disdain for Adam Saleh and those... for whom indignation is not an emotion, but a form of social and real currency, traded in clicks and views.

Ever since, the treatment of Muslims at airports and on planes—at baggage counters, during security checks and in the cabin—is cause for the West to hang its collective head in shame. I have no doubt that the sound of Arabic, even in our globalised world, will spook the average bigot. I do not doubt that someone looking vaguely Middle-Eastern brings out the worst in any racist. This is not merely racism but a disgusting form of paranoia and xenophobia. As humanists, all of us have a responsibility to repudiate this kind of bigotry wherever it happens. And this is precisely why I have utter disdain for Adam Saleh and those who live under his mocking flag. Those who pledge allegiance to fake outrage, and for whom indignation is not an emotion, but a form of social and real currency, traded in clicks and views. Those who with every monetised YouTube video—that they disingenuously label pranks—cause indelible damage to Muslims and in many cases, the immigrant's fight for equality in the West.

He deliberately provokes passengers. He contravenes airline rules by pretending to sneak himself onto a plane via the baggage hold. He seems to have an utter disregard for his fellow passengers. By now, everyone has seen his viral video statement, claiming to have been kicked off a Delta Airlines plane because he spoke in Arabic. This is similar to the prank videos he has uploaded in the past. I personally find it hard to believe his claims. He has responded to the justified scepticism with a statement with a sentence almost self-conscious in its irony: "I feel like this is the boy who cried wolf." Pranksters like Adam Saleh are, with their every action, weakening the struggles of those who do face actual discrimination and shamelessly monetising their pain.

Through trivialising his actions as "pranks", Adam Saleh is mocking those facing actual discrimination.

As an ex-Muslim, and as someone who is still very much part of the community and who revels in its tradition and culture, I am disgusted. Most of all, though, I am uncomprehending in the face of his cynicism. Through trivialising his actions as "pranks", Adam Saleh is mocking those facing actual discrimination. I would not have had a modicum of doubt in his claims if it had not been for his earlier behaviour. But now I find it hard, like many people, to believe him. Since this story has gone viral, you will find that Muslims who are booted off of airlines, and who are facing discrimination will find themselves treated with more scepticism than they should. For once, they should be pointing fingers. For once, they might want to blame someone for this. They should be blaming Adam Saleh.

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