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America: The Height of Insult - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Our British Airways flight arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport at ‎approximately eight o’clock local time – but just as we arrived at passport control, it ‎was as though we had entered into another world. It was nearly a three-hour wait ‎before the immigration officers checked our passports again, took our pictures and ‎fingerprints for the second time; after they carried out the procedure with all the other ‎passengers. ‎

Those who had been selected for security checks endured a level of disdain that is ‎impossible to describe; men and women some of them in their eighties, not to mention ‎the children. The Saudi students who had arrived at two o’clock in the afternoon were ‎still there; the last of them left at approximately ten o’clock in what was a shameful ‎and saddening scene.

An elderly Egyptian man asked me, “What is a man my age supposed to do?” He ‎laughed and added, “And then they ask ‘why do they hate us!'”

This is not the first time that I have seen this happen; in fact, it happens every time I ‎visit – irrespective of the reasons for my visit. This time, after the security man asked ‎me what my profession was, he looked apologetic and said, “You don’t have a ‎problem, however because of your nationality and age some procedures must be ‎undertaken. Unfortunately, it is not only your nationality alone but other nationalities ‎as well.”‎

Last year a security man asked me scornfully, “Why did you travel to Pakistan?” I ‎told him the nature of my job and explained that this was the reason for my travel. He ‎smiled mockingly and said, “Go back to your seat and I will find out everything from ‎the computer.” That time, I waited three hours after a seven-hour flight after which I ‎was told that it was a case of similarities in name!

Terrorism did not strike the United States alone, everyone has security concerns and ‎security measures should not mean collective punishment, just as caution and ‎following regulations does not mean insulting others and degrading them. ‎

The official in charge of security staff at the airport, within our earshot, asked his ‎colleagues to help finish the passengers’ procedures so that they may take a break to ‎rest – and not so that they can end the suffering of the passengers who were waiting in ‎a miserable state enduring inspection procedures no different from those they go ‎through at embassies when they obtain the visas or upon arrival at airports. ‎

I have travelled to many countries, developed and underdeveloped, safe and ‎dangerous, but I have not seen human beings debased in such a way as I have seen at ‎American airports. Furthermore, I have not encountered anything worse than some of ‎the security men and women in American airports – American security procedures are ‎carried out in an uncivilized manner.

Security measures should not only be in airports but should also be within the country ‎itself and during the stay in the country. Those who arrive from airports have been ‎checked at their departure points – and it is impossible to reveal one’s intentions ‎through cameras or fingerprints, no matter how many times the process is repeated.

The continuation of such bad treatment at American airports is insulting and results in ‎affirming and entrenching the negative American image abroad. It is sad to see what ‎the young students and elderly are subjected to or what those who are compelled to ‎travel for work or medical treatment have to endure. ‎

This mistreatment at American airports does not reflect what the US is like from ‎within!‎

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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