As you have probably heard, the case of the “flying imams” has been settled. The six Muslim clerics who were pulled off a U.S. Airways flight at the Twin Cities airport on Nov. 20, 2006 by Metro Airport Commission police will be paid an undisclosed sum by some combination of the MAC, U.S. Air and possibly the FBI in exchange for which the imams will drop their suit alleging improper arrest and other acts of discrimination or defamation…

The case caused a huge hullabaloo around these parts on when the clerics were arrested. Congress even passed a law — and the Minnesota case was discussed on the floor of the House as the motivation for the law — designed to protect people from reporting their suspicions under circumstances like this. (The passengers who originally raised questions about the imams were not defendants and have not been named publicly. It is not a crime, nor a tort, for a passenger to report his suspicions to the airline crew.)

The imams, and the way they were arrested, became for a time the symbol of the post-9/11 national nervousness about Middle Easterners on airplanes and for the allegation that you could get arrested for the “crime” of “flying while Muslim.”

The nervousness was understandable, but that didn’t make it constitutional. The Fourth Amendment protects us against unreasonable seizures by the government, which in a case like this means that even the shock of the 9/11 attacks didn’t repeal the simple rule that police cannot arrest someone unless they have probable cause to believe that the arrestees have committed a crime…

As you review the facts of the case, ask yourself which of the “suspicious” actions of the imams would have been suspicious if they had not been Muslims. (More)


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