TSA to Travelers: Don't Fear Muslim Practices During Ramadan

TSA says Muslims 'may carry prayer beads and 'whisper' prayers constantly.'

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A man and a boy during prayers on Madison Avenue just before the annual Muslim Day Parade in New York, Sept. 23, 2012.
A man and a boy during prayers on Madison Avenue just before the annual Muslim Day Parade in New York, Sept. 23, 2012.

The Transportation Security Administration is advising travelers that the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins Tuesday, and that devout Muslims may be seen washing in airport bathrooms, praying aboard planes and constantly whispering prayers to themselves.

The agency says it also notified employees – who are charged with ensuring safety at American airports – that religious practices might be seen.

"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," according to a statement posted on the agency's website.

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Non-Muslim passengers should be aware that Muslims "may be more likely to engage in prayer at airports or on airplanes while traveling than at other times during the year."

A man and a boy during prayers on Madison Avenue just before the annual Muslim Day Parade in New York, Sept. 23, 2012.
A man and a boy during prayers on Madison Avenue just before the annual Muslim Day Parade in New York, Sept. 23, 2012.

"Before prayer," the TSA advises, "Muslims go through ablution, i.e., a cleansing or washing of certain areas of the body that is usually done in private if possible, but may be observed in airport restrooms."

In an apparent attempt to head off alarm, the TSA says that Muslims "may be seen reading, listening to or orally reciting the Holy Qur'an at airports and on airplanes" and "may carry prayer beads and 'whisper' prayers constantly."

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The Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group, is pleased that the TSA issued the advisory.

"We appreciate that the TSA took the initiative on this issue and perhaps helped prevent some misunderstandings with the traveling public and security personnel," CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper told U.S. News.

U.S. News reached out to the TSA for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

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