Accessible Tourism

TRAVEL IMPACT NEWSWIRE โ€“ Edition 80 (2009) โ€“ 07 November 2009

HOW TO RESTORE THE BALANCE, FROM A UNIQUE ASIAN PERSPECTIVE

"The travel & tourism buzzword of the 21st century will be the search for balance." That forecast was made by Imtiaz Muqbil, Executive Editor, Travel Impact Newswire, in the monthly strategic intelligence publication of PATA, the Pacific Asia Travel Association, way back in February 1999. Today, it is proving spot-on as the word "balance" resonates across all industry sectors.

In the past few weeks, Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil has spoken at a UNESCO Conference in Bangkok on "The Power of Peace", and at a UN World Tourism Organisation Conference on Destination Management in Hangzhou, China; contributed to a discussion on the future of the Silk Road at the UNWTO General Assembly in Astana, Kazakhstan; moderated a panel discussion at the ASEAN Hotel & Restaurant Association Congress (AHRA) on โ€œThe Future Vision of ASEAN Hospitalityโ€ and participated in a panel discussion organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand on โ€œImage Management For Thailandโ€™s Tourism & Business Industries." He is due to moderate a panel discussion on tourism at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December 2009

Travel industry conferences seeking a speaker who can offer some unique historical hindsight, unconventional foresight and thought-provoking insight on the past, present and future of the Asia Pacific travel & tourism industry can contact Imtiaz Muqbil at imtiaz@travel-impact-newswire.com.

1. โ€œWe Felt Like a Fortress For a Weekโ€ โ€” A General Manager's Personal Account of Managing the ASEAN Summit

As the dust settles on the 15th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits during Oct 23-25, Victor Sukseree, General Manager of the Dusit Thani Hua Hin, the main host hotel, shares some personal thoughts on the trials and tribulations of hosting the second such Summit in little more than six months. This straight-from-the-heart narrative of managing the monumental task of hosting roughly a dozen heads of state, along with their entourages, is an eye-opener for both hoteliers and organisers of MICE events, and a great learning experience for students of travel & tourism. He wrote this account exclusively for Travel Impact Newswire.

By Victor Sukseree, General Manager, Dusit Thani Hua Hin

After 19 years in operation, we are well used to and more than capable of staging large events, having hosted more than our share of state visits, royal occasions, major conferences and huge incentive groups. However, the sheer scale of the operation to stage the 15th ASEAN Summit presented an unprecedented challenge, but certainly not a challenge that fazed us.

Once it was decided to move the event from Phuket to Hua Hin, I think it was inevitable that we would be the chosen hosts. One thing very much in our favour was our meeting facilities, including our Royal Dusit Hall conference centre which boasts a ballroom able to comfortably accommodate over 1,000 delegates for a reception. Our Napalai Ballroom also has its own auditorium and is capable of holding almost 500 guests. Another plus point was our room capacity of 296 rooms, which exceeds those of our main competitors in the region. Fortunately for us, we have recently invested upwards of Baht 160 million on our Club Lounge and Club rooms and Grand rooms, meaning we have 53 Dusit Club Rooms and 25 Dusit Grand Rooms (Junior Suites), plus 2 Presidential Suites and 4 Dusit Suites.

Iโ€™ll deal with some of the challenges we faced:

Food

Stringent hygiene standards were applied. We have just splashed out Baht 40 million on a spanking new kitchen, which was completed just days before the summit and, each day in the lead up and during the summit itself, officials from the Ministry of Public Health were stationed right outside the kitchen door checking incoming and outgoing food, both cooked and uncooked, for bacteria. In addition, all staff that had any contact with food in any shape or form were required to have rectal swab tests taken.

Food had to be ordered and delivered so it was fresh and though it sounds a simple task the security measures in place meant that it was actually quite difficult for suppliers and even the hotelโ€™s own vehicles to come into the hotel grounds, let alone up to our usual delivery bays.

Dining

At the 14th ASEAN Summit we had โ€˜justโ€™ 10 Heads of State or Heads of Government, plus their senior ministers, so having 16 this time was an increase of over 50% and all had their own separate working lunches organised. Fortunately we have four restaurants, including a substantial-sized coffee shop. These were pressed into full service together with several of the smaller meeting rooms that we have. All this bearing in mind we still had regular guests to cater for and the tail-end of the rainy season to contend with, meaning there were always a few sweaty palms whenever meals were scheduled at our beachfront Rim Talay.

In total, we had a total of twenty different menus to prepare and with each menu, we had to further tailor it to suit the food preferences of individual leaders and delegates. Quite a task, as our Food & Beverage staff and Kitchen staff would vouch, and not made any easier by constant tinkering and changes of mind by organisers.

Manpower

We have a workforce of around 400 permanent staff. However, for the summits, we had to bolster this by bringing in a dedicated taskforce of almost 60 highly-experienced staff from our sister hotels around Thailand, as well as a further 60-plus students from reputable Thai and International universities to assist with giving service of the standard that events of such magnitude deserve and demand. Constant training goes on throughout the year, of course, but for this event all staff were required to undergo intensive fire-training in addition to the two daysโ€™ fire training staff normally receive annually. There was also a full-scale fire drill and building evacuation for all staff and guests, with all emergency services cooperating fully to add a sense of realism to the occasion.

Managing, or juggling, the workforce to be in the right place at the right time and in sufficient numbers was quite an act and one which I am proud to say my executives were able to do superbly.

Staff capability

I have at my disposal a most willing bunch of workers, who never complain about being asked to work above and beyond the call of duty and put in an extra shift whenever required. However, many of these staff are from rural parts of the country, so, at times, they lack urbanity, cultural know-how and the social airs and graces required in such formal scenarios.

In our daily meetings and at our ongoing training, our management and staff are constantly reminded of easy-to-remember credos to help prevent or solve problems and these credos, combined with the staffโ€™s willingness, enthusiasm and positive can-do attitude were able to hold them in good stead and deal with whatever was thrown at them before, during and after the summits.

Security operation

Though there was high security for the 14th ASEAN Summit in February, it was nothing compared to the operation for this latest one. Much of it has been well documented, such as the stickers to allow vehicles to enter the Cha-am/Hua Hin area and the imposition of the draconian Internal Security act in the area. 18,000 soldiers were deployed in Cha-am and Hua Hin with a further 18,000 also purported to be on standby in Bangkok. However, as (Thai Prime Minister) Abhisit Vejjajiva explained during an interview at the hotel, this was not an overreaction, more a case of learning the lesson of having underestimated the situation at the aborted summit in Pattaya and knowing that Thailand simply could not afford anything at all to go wrong on this occasion. There is certainly no denying that Dusit Thani Hua Hin felt like a fortress for a week and it would have taken a v ery brave or very stupid man or group to try and pull off any stunt at all.

A pontoon bridge was built from the hotelโ€™s beach out to sea to allow naval warships to dock, whilst our cricket pitch was turned into a heliport in case the air-force or medical services were required in an emergency. In comparison, the fingerprinting of all staff and suppliers, checking of family histories, documenting of staffโ€™s cars and motorcycles, and such like were seen as very minor inconveniences along the way.

Guestโ€™s peace and happiness

Perhaps our biggest challenge was remembering and keeping all our regular guests happy with the huge security operation that was going on all around us and them. Some guests saw it as an opportunity of a lifetime, whilst others were disappointed and disconcerted that their long-awaited vacation had been disrupted, although we did go to great lengths to forewarn every guest and offer them the opportunity to switch their stays to alternative dates. From the spectacular air-and-sea rescue drills going on around them to the closure of the hotelโ€™s car parks and the โ€˜commandeeringโ€™ of some restaurants and other hotel facilities for several days, there were plenty of inconveniences for non-ASEAN guests to contend with, but throughout we endeavoured to keep each and every guest personally in the picture regarding what was happening and what could and could not be done.

Aftermath

Though many might consider that the closing of the 15th ASEAN Summit meant that the pressure was off, it is anything but the case. There was a massive clean-up operation in the hotel grounds where tents and stages had to be dismantled, army checkpoints had to be removed and of course all of the hotelโ€™s facilities checked and all traces of damage repaired.

From my personal point of view, there has been an endless round of interviews asking me for my thoughts and comments, but overall, judging from the countless number of congratulatory messages we have received, my team seem to have done a great job in pulling of a successful summit and restoring much pride and prestige to Thailand.

The challenge has certainly been a fulfilling one, the benefit of all the media exposure immeasurable and Dusit Thani Hua Hin is justifiably proud to have been entrusted with hosting not one but two summits within the space of seven months. It is an honour which reflects highly upon us and Dusit International as a whole. We are not satisfied yet though and would certainly welcome the opportunity of going for a hat trick somewhere down the line.

Anecdotes and reminiscences

There are hundreds of little stories that I could relate, but it is probably better that most stay secret. However, one little story which reflects well upon the high standard of food and service that we were able to offer, comes from a luncheon for Heads of State and Heads of Government hosted by Prime Minister Abhisit. Although his dislike of offal is well documented, the selected main course included a serving of โ€˜pan-fried foie grasโ€™. Since each dish was tailor-made to each leaders liking, as requested by protocol, we did not serve the Prime Minister any foie gras. Nevertheless, when he saw how much everyone else seemed to be enjoying the goose liver, he quietly asked one of our staff if a portion could be served for him too.

We will look back too with pride on our offering of limited-edition stacked-glass mementoes of an Ice Naga at the 14th ASEAN Summit and at this 15th ASEAN Summit a replica of Suphannahongsa, the royal barge, that we were honoured to personally present to Prime Minister Abhisit and the ASEAN Secretary General, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, who then passed them on to the Heads of Government and Heads of State in attendance.

(Editor's Note: Enjoyed this great article? Send your appreciation to Victor at victor@dusit.com. Iโ€™m sure he will love to hear from you.)

2. Mekong Odyssey 09: TTR Weekly Executive Editor Don Ross Embarks Upon a Ride for Life

TTR Weekly Managing Editor Don Ross has embarked upon a 1,600-kilometre cycle ride through North Thailand. In this article, he explains why. Follow him on http://www.ttrweekly.com/site/2009/11/mekong-odyssey-09-ride-for-life/

November 4, 2009 -- The weather vane in garden swivelled 180 degrees to the northeast, last Thursday, and I knew it was time to pack my cycle bags for our Mekong Odyssey 09, a 1,600 km ride I have been planning for the last six months with friend and long-time Thailand resident, Peter Brierley.

With the prevailing wind at our backs and morning temperatures dipping in North Thailand to below 18 degree centigrade, this is the best time to follow the trail of the Mekong River through Thailandโ€™s border country.

Our three-week trip starts from Chiang Rai, 8 November, following the Mekong River as close as is practical, all the way to Ubon Ratchathani and across the border to Pakse in southern Laos.

Our starting point, in a rural district east of Chiang Rai, is not exactly on the Mekong River, but it is close enough to Chiang Khong and Wiang Kaen, the last towns before the river sweeps inland through mountain gorges to Luang Prabang in Laos. It eventually flows south to touch Thailand once more at Chiang Khan, 63 km north of Loei.

We intend to skirt around the elbow of mountains near Nan on remote rural roads close to the border with Laos to Na Haeo, Dansai and to Chiang Khan, to rejoin the Mekong River. From there the rural road hugs the river bank all the way to Nong Khai and south to Nakhon Phanom, Mukdahan, Song Salueng and Ubon Ratchathani, where we will head for Pakse, in southern Laos; a town that is fast becoming a chill-out spot for young travellers. Hello, why are we going there??

This is a cycle tour with minimum fuss โ€“ no back-up vehicles, support or fixed itinerary. Just the basic outline that we need to close the day where there is a guest house or national park with accommodation; even if it is rent-a-tent. Everything we need will be stuffed into bike panniers slung over the front and rear racks and two sturdy bikes to take the load.

With 21 days to cover the distance we fancy experiencing Northeast Thailand at a snailโ€™s pace trailing a tiny carbon footprint. That was it. No agendas, nothing but enjoying a holiday was on our minds.

Then I happened to watch the โ€œQue Sera Seraโ€ commercial on Thai TV, while Xandra, my five-year old granddaughter, sang the lyrics at the top of her voice. The commercial, which got close to 300,000 hits on YouTube, in less than a week, zoomed in on the musicians and singers who were all handicapped children.

Of course itโ€™s a clever commercial that prompts a tear or two, but it did the trick. No we didnโ€™t buy insurance, but we pledged to support a charity for children and adults who are handicapped and donโ€™t have limbs to cycle the by-ways of Thailand.

We invite you to join us in our adventure to support The Prostheses Foundation of HRH the Princess Mother. The website link is http://http://www.prosthesesfoundation.or.th/original/eng/indexEn.htm

You can sponsor in a way that best suits you. One method is to pledge cents or baht per km. The final distance covered will be verified by our Garmin GPS with details posted on the website. But you can reckon on 1600 km, from end-to-end.

In just days of stating our intentions, to a few cycling friends in Bangkok, the pledges reached Bt50,000.

This how it works

Anyone interested in pledging support should email us at mekongodyssey09@ttreport.com stating name and pledge details. Your email will allow us to identify your donation when it is transferred to the bank account.

We will publish details of the donations deposited in the account on www.ttrweekly.com We understand the charity will provide individual receipts to those who make a donation.

Once the ride ends, donations should be paid to the following account opened specifically for this project. (Due to complicated rules and tax conditions it has to be a personal account, but after 40 years in Thailand I am not about to flee the scene).

All funds in the account will be paid without any deductions to The Prostheses Foundation of HRH the Princess Mother and a second foundation if the donations go through over Bt100,000. Account details: Don Pepper Ross, savings account no 217-204 144-7, Siam Commercial Bank, Bon Marche Market Branch, Chatuchak District, Bangkok, Thailand.

Well, Iโ€™ve got that off my chest. All I have to do now is get myself to Chiang Rai on a TG flight, this Friday, and start cycling south on Sunday to a remote little village called Pong. It might not sound so auspicious in the English language, but tiny Pong has a resort and it is a convenient 100 km from the start, hence our interest.

Oh, I forgot, anyone is welcome to join us at any of the towns we visit. Just turn up with your bike, with a back pack, or a pannier bag slung over a back wheel rack (No support cars or camp followers).

We will update the ride daily with some travel stuff and insights on http://www.ttrweekly.com and also we will twitter away to anyone who wants to stay in touch on www.twitter.com/donross44 and www.twitter.com/peterB48

Foundation Details

The Prostheses Foundation of HRH The Princess Mother was established in 1992. When it was learned that Dr.Therdchai Jivacate was able to make prosthetic legs which were lighter, more comfortable and 10 times less expensive than imported ones, as they were made from recycled plastic, the Princess Mother set up The Prosthesis Foundation to provide free prostheses for poor amputees, regardless of nationality or religion.

The Prosthesis Foundation was registered Aug. 17, 1992 with the Princess Mother as Honorary chairman and H.R.H. Princess Galayani Vadhana Kromluang Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra as president. Both donated a sum of money which made it possible for The Foundation to begin providing prostheses since 1992.

Website: http://http://www.prosthesesfoundation.or.th/original/eng/indexEn.htm.

3. Panel On Climate Justice And Tourism To Be Convened At Copenhagen Summit

Climate Justice and Tourism is to be the theme topic of a civil society summit to be convened on 10 December 2009 during the final round of talks on the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change in Copenhagen. Organised by a coalition of European non-governmental organisations, the summit will discuss how the travel & tourism industry will be able to cope with the potentially mandatory emission reduction targets while simultaneously striving to meet its own growth targets and ensure the economic upliftment of rural areas.

Among the organising groups are EED Tourism Watch www.tourism-watch.de Naturefriends International www.nf-int.org, Institute for Integrative Tourism and Development www.respect.at, Climate Alliance Austria www.klimabuendnis.org and the Ecumenical Coalition On Tourism www.ecotonline.org in cooperation with IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems, Austria.

In a statement accompanying the official announcement, the groups said, โ€œIt is broadly acknowledged that this new climate deal must ensure that average global warming will remain below the dangerous threshold of 2 degrees. In order to meet this global challenge, every nation, every industry sector and every human being will need to take on a fair share of the mitigation burden.โ€

Furthermore, it said, โ€œthose who were and are most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions must pay their climate debts and provide developing countries with substantial funds for coping with the inevitable impacts of global warming such as natural disasters, sea level rise, food shortage or mass migration.โ€

The statement said the global tourism industry โ€œis a significant contributor to climate change. Taking into account other warming effects besides CO2, it is believed to contribute up to 12.5 % of anthropogenic climate impact. And tourism is a rapidly growing industry: its emissions are believed to more than double within the next 25 years.

โ€œThe travel industry declares itself to be aware of its climate responsibility and aspires to reduce carbon emissions throughout its value chain. However, in times where every industry sector is called by the international community to formulate binding reduction targets, mere โ€œaspirationsโ€ may be not enough.

This especially applies to international air transport as the biggest source of tourism emissions, which is still exempted from the Kyoto Protocol. After 12 years there is no identifiable progress in creating an appropriate climate regulation โ€“ a responsibility which was given in 1997 to the aviation sector itself. Instead, the industry announces the development of โ€œsustainably grown biofuelsโ€ in order to continue its growth path.โ€

The civil society movements believe that โ€œthe trust in agrofuels must be seriously challenged given the long timeframe to achieve significant emission reductions and the huge land requirements which are likely to have impacts on food supply.โ€

The statement said that the travel industry โ€œoften argues that a regulative framework for limiting growth of passenger transport could have negative impacts on tourism revenues that contribute to poverty alleviation in developing countries (so-called โ€˜Spillover Effectsโ€™).โ€

While agreeing with that rationale, the statement said the same issue also then raised the question of how best to ensure that tourism revenues best reach those who need it, especially the poor.

โ€œAs a highly globalized economic sector, it must be questioned how much of the income generated from tourism eventually arrives at the poor population segments and does not โ€œleak outโ€ of the developing economies through foreign-owned tour operators, airlines, cruise companies and hotel chains or through food and drink imports.โ€

The question of how to achieve substantial sectoral GHG reductions against the background of tremendous growth forecasts, while ensuring that related structural changes do not hit those that are already the most disadvantaged within the tourism system, will be crucial for the travel industry in order to play a pivotal and integrative role in the world economy of the 21st century.

โ€œThe World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) โ€“ as the UN agency for global tourism policy issues โ€“ will need to act as a central platform for finding solutions to this, admittedly, challenging task.โ€

Taking into consideration the complex interrelationships between tourism, climate change and development, this conference will deal with the following key discussion points:

  1. What could mandatory emission reduction targets for the tourism industry under the umbrella of UNFCCC look like?
  2. What role does the UNWTO need to play in climate and development policy processes?
  3. How could climate policies for tourism be designed to reduce effectively negative economic spill-over effects for poor people in developing countries?
  4. How can tourism tackle its growth forecasts against the background of climate change?
  5. Unsustainable expectations? - Do agrofuels and sustainable biofuels have the potential to achieve the required emission reductions without violating the rights of poor people?
  6. Mitigation first โ€“market-based mechanisms such as CDM are development tools for whom?

Programme

Those seeking to participate can send a request for registration to tourismclimate@googlemail.com

4. Road Transport Union Votes To Cut Emissions By 30% By 2030

Geneva - The International Road Transport Unionโ€™s (IRU) General Assembly, representing truck, bus, coach and taxi operators in 74 countries on the 5 continents, last week unanimously adopted the IRU โ€œ30-by-30โ€ Resolution, a voluntary road transport industry commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% by 2030.

Calling it an โ€œunprecedented commitmentโ€ IRU President, Janusz Lacny, said, โ€œAfter achieving a commendable reduction in toxic emissions by up to 98% over the last 20 years, which significantly helped improve air quality, the road transport industry is now ready to take up this new challenge and effectively contribute to ambitious CO2 reduction targets.โ€

This reduction target, to be calculated in terms of transport performance (tonne and passenger-kilometres), will use 2007 as the base year. Mr Lacny added: โ€œWhile governments struggle, most likely to no avail, to forge a consensus and limit CO2 emissions as a follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol in Copenhagen this December, the road transport industry publicly commits to provide better and cleaner rather than more road transport, and to effectively decouple road transport from its environmental impact.โ€

The resolution said, โ€œThe globalisation process has led to an increase in tourism and trade and thus transport, and therefore to an increase in fuel use and consequently CO2 emissions.

โ€œRoad transport is the only mode of transport that can provide high quality door-to-door service with in many cases a better CO2 emissions footprint than other modes of transport. Overall transport accounts for 30% of CO2 emissions while the commercial road transport industry is responsible for 3% of total CO2 emissions.โ€

It said that inadequate road infrastructure can easily triple the fuel consumption of a heavy commercial vehicle. Apart from urban distribution and short-distance road passenger transport, commercial road transport is and will remain dependent on oil, with no economically viable alternative in sight, the resolution added.

The resolution said the IRU members would invest in: 1) innovative engine and latest vehicle technology, which can contribute to a reduction in fuel consumption and consequently CO2 emissions of more than 10%; 2) driver training, as provided by the IRU Academy and others, which can reduce fuel consumption and consequently CO2 emissions by up to 10%; and 3) innovative logistic concepts, such as ITS and optimised weights and dimensions of heavy commercial vehicles, which can equally reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of more than 10%.

The resolution called on vehicle manufacturers, tyre manufacturers, telematics and energy providers to provide interoperable systems and use latest innovative technologies such as lighter building materials and an aerodynamic design even before their use becomes mandatory.

At the same time, the IRU and its member associations called upon competent authorities to provide real business incentives to facilitate the investment in the changes and reductions required, and to stop seeking new legislation aimed at reducing toxic emissions but โ€œrather to focus on legislation with the aim to reduce fuel consumption.โ€

They also called for investment in new infrastructure to remove bottlenecks and missing links; incentives to promote and increase the use of buses, coaches and taxis; and development of international standards to allow the widest use of the modular concept by standardising and harmonising vehicles, transport units, weight and dimensions.

The statement also urged the use of โ€œinternational environmental Conventions to benefit the environment instead of as an excuse to introduce fiscal mechanisms to collect additional fuel taxes used for cross-

subsidisation.

5. US Airways Settles Out Of Court With Imams Wrongly Taken Off Aircraft

In a move that should be a learning experience for aviation security, immigration and security authorities worldwide, U.S. Airways last month agreed to an out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit filed by six imams, or Islamic religious leaders, who were arrested after being removed from a US Airways flight in Minnesota in 2006.

According to a brief announcement on the terms, the six religious leaders will receive an undisclosed amount in compensation. Confidentiality clauses built into the agreement prevented further details from being disclosed in the statement which said simply that the case was resolved to โ€œthe satisfaction of all parties.โ€

The Washington DC-based Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) which has championed the imamsโ€™ rights since they were removed from the plane hailed the settlement, which has been almost totally ignored by the global travel media. โ€œ(It) is a clear victory for justice and civil rights over fear and the phenomenon of โ€˜flying while Muslimโ€™ in the post-9/11 era,โ€ said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

Last July, a judge in Minnesota sided with the imams on key issues in their lawsuit against those involved in their removal from the plane. U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery cleared the way for a trial by denying several motions to dismiss the case and ruling that a law passed by Congress after the incident does not grant protection from lawsuits to those sued by the imams.

The judge also ruled that the actions of the imams prior to their flight did not justify their detention. She noted that the imams were subjected to โ€œextreme fear and humiliation of being falsely identified as dangerous terroristsโ€ and said โ€œsimilar behavior by Russian Orthodox priests or Franciscan monks would likely not have elicited this response.โ€

In an opinion piece published in the publication USA Today, CAIRโ€™s National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper called for a global ban on religious and racial profiling. He said that while the settlement should not prevent anyone from acting on legitimate security concerns, โ€œreports based solely on anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bias and hysteria should not be used as the basis for a โ€œflying while Muslimโ€ incident.

โ€œAbsent actual suspicious behavior, merely offering one of the five-daily Islamic prayers in a terminal, speaking Arabic to a fellow passenger, wearing a head scarf, or โ€œlooking Muslimโ€ is insufficient justification to detain passengers or remove them from a flight.โ€

โ€œAmerican Muslims are just as concerned about flight safety and security as citizens of other faiths. They and their families take the same flights and are subject to the same risks as other members of the travelling public. Flight safety should be based on legitimate law enforcement techniques, not on racial or religious profiling.โ€

Added Mr Hooper, โ€œOur nationโ€™s civil rights movement has been advancing steadily for decades, despite calls to maintain the status quo or suggestions to curtail the rights of certain citizens. That movement toward justice for all must not be put into reverse because of post-9/11 fears. When anyoneโ€™s rights are diminished, all Americansโ€™ rights are threatened.โ€

Mr Hooper said โ€œAmerica is an increasingly diverse society in terms of race, religion and ethnicityโ€ and must seek to โ€œprevent situations in which stereotypes or bias can create a snowball effect of escalating discrimination.โ€

He added, โ€œOur nationโ€™s history has been marred by periods in which groups -- whether Irish Americans, African Americans, Japanese Americans, or others -- were deemed appropriate targets for discrimination. Thankfully, Americans are capable of looking beyond the prejudices of the moment to see a future of equal treatment for all.โ€

The case, which galvanised Muslim travellers all around the world who are frequently to subjected to racial and religious profiling at international airports and border checkpoints, was set to go further in a lawsuit against the Minnesota Metropolitan Airport Commission, US Airways and possibly the FBI on the grounds of improper arrest and other acts of discrimination or defamation.

According to a commentary in the Minnesota Post, โ€œThe case caused a huge hullabaloo around these parts. Congress even passed a law -- and the Minnesota case was discussed on the floor of the House as the motivation for the law -- designed to protect people from reporting their suspicions under circumstances like this.โ€

Said the commentator, Eric Black, โ€œThe imams, and the way they were arrested, became for a time the symbol of the post-9/11 national nervousness about Middle Easterners on airplanes and for the allegation that you could get arrested for the โ€œcrimeโ€ of โ€œflying while Muslim.โ€

โ€œThe nervousness was understandable, but that didnโ€™t make it constitutional. The Fourth Amendment protects us against unreasonable seizures by the government, which in a case like this means that even the shock of the 9/11 attacks didnโ€™t repeal the simple rule that police cannot arrest someone unless they have probable cause to believe that the arrestees have committed a crime...โ€

He added, โ€œAs you review the facts of the case, ask yourself which of the โ€œsuspiciousโ€ actions of the imams would have been suspicious if they had not been Muslims.โ€

Further details about the entire incident are available on the website www.flyingwhilemuslim.org

By: Executive Editor: Imtiaz Muqbil
When: 7/2/2014

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