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TSA works to enlighten travelers as Ramadan begins

Wajahat Ali
The Islam Awareness Blog

The Transportation Security Administration has issued a bulletin to help air travelers understand Muslim practices they might observe,  especially as the Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins on Tuesday.

Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims, who observe the event with a variety of traditions.

The bulletin says Muslims abstain from food, water, smoking or vices of any kind during Ramadan.

It also says passengers  may be seen reading, listening to or orally reciting the Holy Qur'an at airports and on airplanes.

Dawud Walid directs the Michigan Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

He says many Muslims carry prayer beads and may "whisper" prayers while they're traveling.

Walid says that practice is often misunderstood.

"The 'See Something, Say Something' policy that the Department of Homeland Security has could trigger someone to report a Muslim who's doing a peaceful activity during the month of Ramadan or outside of Ramadan," Walid says.

Walid says the TSA bulletin stems from good intentions, but it demonstrates the public's general lack of education about Islamic religious traditions.

"Obviously, TSA employees are fully briefed about it, but that doesn't mean everyone is," Walid says. "And there are many people who travel through airports, such as Metro Detroit, who have connecting flights and they may be accustomed to seeing Muslims, but it is definitely more of a problem in areas where there are fewer Muslims."

Education, Walid says, is the key to preventing misunderstanding.

So would it be rude to ask about a religious practice?

Walid says it's fine if you do so respectfully.

"In order for us to have a more congenial society and to bring about more tolerance and understanding, we have to learn about each other's differences, and Muslims are open to letting  people know about our traditions."