Several Oklahoma Muslim leaders said they are pleased that the Transportation Security Administration has made an effort to inform the general public about Ramadan and how it may affect the way Muslims behave in airports and on airplanes.
Ramadan is one of the five pillars, or obligations, of Islam. Observant Muslims abstain from food, drink and sensual pleasures from dawn to sunset during the month, which commemorates the divine revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. The holy month ends on Aug. 8.
A few days before Ramadan began on July 9, the TSA posted information about the Islamic holy month of fasting on its website at TSA.gov. The posting said the TSA had shared the same information with its employees.
“TSA has reminded its security workforce that traveling passengers may be observed at various areas in the airport – including security checkpoints or on aircraft – engaged in religious practices and meditations during Ramadan,” the posting said.
When asked if the information in the website posting was also posted at airports and on airplanes, Carrie Harmon, TSA regional public affairs manager, said the information was available on the website which travelers can easily access.
“TSA provides the traveling public with helpful and informative information in preparation for travel including prohibited items, busy travel season tips, and holidays or events,” she said in a statement.
The TSA posting said the traveling public might notice passengers who are observing Ramadan engage in several activities, including reading, listening to or orally reciting the Quran at airports and on airplanes or carrying prayer beads and whispering prayers constantly.
“I think it’s great that they are doing that and we thank them for their outreach,” Saad Mohammad, the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City’s director of Islamic news and information, said of the TSA.
“You might see someone stop and pray where they are. They are taking advantage of Ramadan and elevating their worship.”
Mohammad said he appreciates the TSA’s foresight, particularly because of several incidents over the last several years which he said stemmed from non-Muslims being suspicious or concerned about Muslims at airports and on airplanes.
“There isn’t a need to feel threatened. We are praying and there’s no reason to be concerned,” he said of Muslims traveling during Ramadan.
Sheryl Siddiqui of Tulsa shared similar sentiments. Siddiqui is spokeswoman for the Islamic Council of Oklahoma, a council of Oklahoma mosques and Islamic schools, representing more than 35,000 Muslims across the state.
“I think it’s great whenever we can connect the dots and help people understand, then we can control fears and deal with other things we should be concerned about,” she said.
Siddiqui said the TSA website post may help lessen the chances for misunderstandings. She said many Muslims, however, tend to stick close to home during Ramadan, preferring to be among family and friend during the Islamic holy time.
Read the TSA post: Ramadan TSA bulletin