Moustafa Bayoumi in The Guardian:
If the allegation of being thrown off a plane for speaking Arabic is true, then Saleh is right to be outraged. We must all be outraged at such blatant bigotry.
But pardon me for being skeptical.
First of all, this is the same guy who released a video in 2014 titled “Racial Profiling Experiment”, which showed the NYPD as flat-footedly anti-Muslim and was later revealed to be a hoax, doing no favors for those of us in the battle against real racial profiling.
And Saleh’s more recent antics include a video of him squeezing into a piece of luggage and flying in the baggage hold from Melbourne to Sydney, Australia. But that stunt was also faked. Security footage shows Saleh walking like a regular, two-legged, ticket-bearing passenger straight onto his flight.
Saleh, who calls himself a “professional idiot”, is a publicity hound, and that’s fine for him. While I freely admit that I don’t get this type of entertainment, a lot of people seem to enjoy his prankish, MTV-style antics. But because this is his public persona, we are justified in considering the possibility that his latest video could be another stunt.
For one thing, we don’t know see what transpired before he began filming this incident. And while we do see others passengers waving and heckling him with goodbyes, we don’t know what the cause of their anger is besides Saleh’s assertion that it’s racism. We have only Saleh’s word at this point, and he may not be a completely trustworthy source. Meanwhile, alleging discrimination where none occurred is a dangerous and damaging game. Just ask Yasmin Seweid.
Seweid is a college student who told New York City police that three drunk men attacked her on the subway, screaming “Donald Trump” and attempting to rip off her hijab while no one came to her defense. Police later discovered that Seweid had fabricated the story due to a troubled family life, and the 18-year-old has now been charged with filing a false report.
The lesson from all of this is not that Islamophobia is false. On the contrary. The handful of fabricated stories of Islamophobia are convincing only because Islamophobia is real, recognized tangible, and dangerous.