Jewish Journal

Muslim women and TSA body scanners

by Brad A. Greenberg

December 28, 2010 | 11:31 am

I’m really getting tired of all the TSA body-scanner “controversy.” I get that their implementation leaves flyers in a pickle: submit to a, ehem, thorough pat-down or stick with the all-but-facially revealing body scanner. But there is also a third option: Don’t fly.

Sure, that’s not a very good option for a lot of people. But neither is not using email, which comes with its own privacy concerns.

Here, however, is an interesting story from The Washington Post about what the dilemma means for Muslim women, for whom displays of modesty must meet a much stricter criteria.

Muslims aren’t alone in their antipathy toward the new security measures. Followers of other religions, including Sikhs and some Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians, also say the scanners and pat-downs make them uncomfortable or breach the tenets of their faiths.

But Muslim women have been particularly reluctant to subject themselves to the scanners, which reveal the contours of the human body in glaring detail.

In Islam, “a woman’s body and a man’s body are both pretty much private,” said Ikramullah, 29, who wears a head scarf. “I choose to cover myself and dress in loose-fitting clothing so the shape of my body is not revealed to everyone in the street.”

The other choice, an “enhanced” pat-down in which security agents touch intimate body parts, was hardly more appealing, said the College Park resident. In recent years, Ikramullah said, she has been pulled aside for a milder version of the pat-downs almost every time she flies. The reason, she believes, is her head scarf.

“It can be humiliating when you’re standing there and people are walking by, seeing you get the pat-down,” she said. “You just feel like you have a target on your head.”

“It can be humiliating when you’re standing there and people are walking by, seeing you get the pat-down,” she said. “You just feel like you have a target on your head.”

To be sure, there is no target on Muslim women. The new TSA requirements affect everyone. My GetReligion colleague Mollie, who is Christian, got groped at the airport last month. And the “If-you-touch-my-junk” guy in the above video is neither Muslim nor a women.

But the concerns for Muslim women and, in fact, anyone whose religious beliefs impose a higher level of modesty are real.

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