Every air traveler likely has done it: stand in an airport security line in your socks, pushing forward plastic bins of shoes, jackets, laptops and handbags, all with only 20 minutes left to board, even though you showed up two hours early as told.

Think you have it tough? Try being a Muslim American.

We Muslim Americans don’t get smiles and “Have a good trip.” Instead, we get suspicious security guards and frowns.

For Muslim American men, it’s their beards that make the difference. For us women, it’s our head scarves.

I was wearing mine when traveling to Virginia recently to attend a seminar. Standing in the security line at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. I was stressed about the possibility of missing my flight that was departing in 20 minutes. And that’s where the trouble began.

I suppose it was because I was worried about missing my flight that I didn’t hear the instructions about taking my laptop computer out of its case and placing it in a separate bin.

A middle-aged Caucasian officer held up my laptop case and asked in a normal tone, “Whose bag is this?” I raised my hand. Everything suddenly changed. Her face became firm, and she leaned forward and said, “When you come into this country, you take the laptop out of the bag.” Then, slowly and with emphasis on each word, “Do — you — understand — me?”

I was then ushered to one side, subjected to a pat-down search, and my bag was wiped with a white cloth which I presumed to be a test for explosives.

In just a few seconds, I — 21 years old, 5 feet 1 inches tall, 108 pounds, a native of Texas and a University of Georgia journalism student — had been treated as a dangerous foreigner.

Naureen Kamdar is a University of Georgia journalism major.

New Attitudes is a weekly opinion column written by readers between the ages of 15-22. E-mail submissions or questions to or call 404-526-7371.


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