Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Random selection isn’t random at all

My name is Sarah Kayali. I am a 5’6″ female student, a cat-lover, a future optometrist and – most importantly – a practicing spiritual Muslim. You’ve probably seen me around campus with my hijab on. The hijab is what gives away my religion and is the reason I’ve been randomly selected and searched at airports at least seven times.
On June 4 after a long school year, I was ready to go on the plane and start my summer vacation. I was at Chicago O’Hare International Airport ready to head to Istanbul, Turkey. As I was going through airport security, I was stopped by a TSA officer: “Ma’am, can I have you step aside?”
I was confused for a second. Everyone around me was passing by without having to step to the side. “What’s the problem?” I asked. The officer explained to me that I have been randomly selected for an additional search.
My bags were ripped open in transit and searched. I got pulled into a security room and asked where I was heading, how long I was staying, how much money I had with me, who I was visiting and more. I kept telling them I had a plane to catch.
They searched and questioned every single item in my bag. I checked my watch and realized that an hour had passed.
I heard the last call for boarding and told them I had to go. The officers finally let me leave. While everyone was all checked in and seated on the plane, I was running to the gate trying to make it on time. I got to the plane exhausted and out of breath. As I looked around, I realized I was the last person to enter the plane.
I get searched every summer while traveling to Turkey. Someone else’s actions on Sept. 11, 2001 has turned me from being a citizen to being a suspect.
Officers call it “randomly selected.” I disagree. How can it be so random if it has happened to me at least seven times? How is it random when I’m always the reason for the length of the airport security line? How is it random when I’m always late to my flights because my bags always need an extra search?
It’s called being “randomly selected,” but a better way of phrasing it would be “She’s wearing a Hijab. She looks suspicious.”
I identify as an American. I was born right across the river in Bettendorf, Iowa, and I carry my US citizenship documents with me at the airport. However, I still get randomly selected due to my appearance. As soon as officers see a Hijab on my head, they assume I have come to bomb the airport, and I must be stopped and searched.
I get that people that people are afraid of terrorists. I am too. Being Muslim doesn’t mean being a terrorist. And don’t even think about saying ISIS represents Islam. ISIS has as much to do with Islam as the Ku Klux Klan has to do with Christianity.
I do tend to make jokes sometimes by posting pictures at the airport before security check captioned with “about to get randomly selected,” but it still bothers me. I travel to Turkey every summer and I should be treated as any other passenger or traveler. It isn’t fair to be “randomly” selected every single time just because I wear a hijab.

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Random selection isn’t random at all