Group hosts airport security simulation event

The goal of the Al-Madinah cultural center was to raise awareness of racial profiling.

Riham Feshir

The loud buzzer caused a few jumps and laughs, but a lot of interrogations.

A fake metal detector at Al-Madinah Cultural Center’s entrance in Coffman Union was part of an airport simulation the student group held to kick off Islam Awareness Week.

Minnesota’s large Muslim population and past racial profiling incidents are pertinent to the University community, chemistry junior Nadia Hug, the group’s events coordinator, said.

“In general, racial profiling is a topic that we should all be thinking about as university students,” she said.

Salwan Abdullah, a biology junior and one of the members who played airport security, said his family has been singled out many times at different airports.

Salwan Abdullah said his brother’s name – Mohamed Abdullah – is a reason he’s usually interrogated.

“At one time they asked him to come to the front of the plane before we were about to fly,” Abdullah said.

At the simulation, Abudullah controlled the detector’s buzzer.

He pressed the button as he checked boarding passes with the name Osama or Mohamed.

They were then taken behind a curtain by the rest of the airport security who asked questions ranging from “where are you from?” to “are you linked to any terrorist organization?”

Biochemistry sophomore Michael Smith was one of the so-called suspicious passengers.

“If it wasn’t a simulation, I would’ve been scared,” he said.

Smith said racial stereotypes at airports still exist.

But Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport spokeswoman Kathleen Bangs said that’s not the case.

“I don’t think anyone that makes it their living – like the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) – to be keeping the airport secure, would even fall for something as simple minded as targeting a certain ethnic group,” she said, adding that it’s not about ethnicity, race or gender.

“Anybody could be considered a threat depending on what actions or what background information or whatever it is that makes them stand out,” Bangs said.

Elementary education sophomore Mandy Johnson pretended she was going to Hawaii during her mock interrogation, and security wasn’t happy with her answer.

“They told me I was going to jail,” she said, adding that if it were a real interrogation, she would’ve disagreed with the policy and fought the demands made by airport security.

“This made me more aware of what’s going on in the airports,” Johnson said.