Washington, DC: America s airport security has found a new terrorist threat to US aviation: the sari.
Indian Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar was pulled from an airport security line and patted down by an American security agent in Mississippi despite being told of her diplomatic status. The incident took place on December 4 at the Jackson-Evers International Airport where sari-clad Meera Shankar was about to board a flight to Baltimore after attending the Mississippi State University s program, the Clarion-Ledger reported. Meera Shankar presented her diplomatic papers to officers and was escorted by a Mississippi Development Authority representative and an airport security officer, but witnesses said she was subjected to the hands-on search.
She was taken to a VIP waiting room despite being told she was an ambassador. She was later pulled from a security line and patted down by a female Transportation Security Administration agent. Witnesses tell the Clarion-Ledger security agents told Meera Shankar she was singled out because she was wearing a sari, which the paper notes is as a traditional Indian robe that is draped across the body. The Jackson airport does not yet have full-body screeners, which meant that the ambassador became subject to the thorough pat-down, the paper said.
New TSA regulations went into effect on November 1 allowing federal security officers at airports to switch to more thorough but often controversial pat-downs for passengers, who require hand searches. Meera Shankar was in Jackson as a guest of Mississippi State University.
While in town, Meera Shankar met with Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, representatives from the Mississippi Development Authority and members of the Indian community in Jackson, and she spoke to more than 100 people at the Executive Lecture Forum of Jackson, the paper said. Gov. Haley Barbour s spokesman Dan Turner said the governor s office is looking into the incident.
At this time, we re trying to find out exactly what happened all of the details, Turner said.
In the past, many prominent Indians, including ministers, have faced some uncomfortable moments at US airports. In September, visiting Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel was quizzed by US immigration authorities at the O Hare airport in Chicago after his name and date of birth matched with that of another Praful Patel, who is on America s watch-list. In August 2009, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan was detained and questioned at Newark Liberty International Airport. Khan was headed to Chicago for a parade to celebrate India s Independence Day, when he was pulled aside by airport authorities for interrogation.
Former Defense Minister George Fernandes had claimed that he was strip-searched twice at Dulles Airport in the US Capital area, when he was on an official visit to Washington in early 2002 and another time while en route to Brazil in mid 2003.
Former Gov. Jack Markell speaks to children at the Islamic Former Gov. Jack Markell is honored by the Islamic Society of Delaware on Saturday. Markell was honored by the Muslim community for his outreach during his two terms as governor.(Photo: Jessica Masulli Reyes/The News Journal)Buy Photo
Hundreds of people packed the Islamic Society of Delaware for an interfaith service that left many in standing room only areas of the worship center. The service was a show of unity between members of different faiths. Kyle Grantham/The News Journal
Former Gov. Jack Markell has always been an ally for Delaware’s Muslim community, even when the nation seemed to be gripped by Islamophobia, according to Muslims who gathered to honor him Saturday. During Markell’s two terms as governor, he spread a message of inclusion and support, whether it was when he celebrated Muslim holidays with the community, promised the state would receive Syrian refugees or condemned vandalism at the community’s worship location, they said.
“He made us feel like any other Delawarean,” said Mashoor Awad, a Delaware businessman. “We feel the least we could do, now since he’s out of office, is show him our appreciation and break more bread with him and invite him back to his own home to let him know he’s always welcome in our community.”
“My real hope and my real aspiration is that in not too long of time there will be no need, there will be no feeling in the Islamic community that they have to honor anybody for being on their side or for protecting them because the truth is we are all in this together and we are all on the same side,” Markell said. Many in attendance praised Markell for his support in a state that is home to as many as 10,000 Muslims.
Markell was the first governor in Delaware to host an Iftar, a fast-breaking ceremony during Ramadan, at the governor’s official mansion. He continued the tradition in 2015 and 2016.
Prayers are performed just before sunset at a Ramadan dinner former Gov. Jack Markell hosted for Muslim leaders at Woodburn, the governor’s mansion, in Dover in 2016. (Photo: DOUG CURRAN/SPECIAL TO THE NEWS Journal)
In 2012, Markell, who is Jewish, also created a council of religious leaders from various faiths so they could regularly meet to discuss how government agencies can carry out social programs. Irfan Patel, the chair of the Islamic Society of Delaware’s Interfaith Committee, said this type of inclusion has been vital as religious leaders of all faiths stand together against acts of hate, including the recent bomb threats against the Siegel Jewish Community Center and nationwide incidents that led the Islamic Society of Delaware to hire a security guard to stand watch during prayer services. Markell also opened Delaware to receive Syrian refugees when governors from other states were refusing to do so in 2015. A Syrian family of three a computer engineer father, a mother and their months-old child arrived in Delaware in February.
Hassan Mageid, president of the Islamic Society of Delaware, said Markell’s message of inclusion stands in opposition to that of other politicians. After taking office in January, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that lowered the number of refugees that could be admitted into the United States and suspended the entry of people from the seven majority Muslim-countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. While Trump defended the ban as a way to keep terrorists out of the country, he was criticized by those who called the order a “Muslim ban.” Many protested at airports where lawful permanent residents of the United States who traveled abroad and others were being detained or returned to their home countries.
Among the impacted families was a University of Delaware doctoral student in chemistry whose mother was detained in the Philadelphia airport and sent back to Iran. At the time, Delaware pastors, rabbis and imams joined Gov. John Carney and Sen. Chris Coons in decrying the order. Trump’s ban was challenged in court and led the president to draft another one. In early March, a second executive order was issued that would exempt lawful permanent residents and those who already hold visas from the ban and took Iraq off the list of countries.
A U.S. District Court judge in Hawaii issued a temporary restraining order earlier this week that blocked Trump’s move.
Former Gov. Jack Markell’s wife, Carla, is given a gift at the Islamic Society of Delaware in Newark on Saturday. (Photo: Jessica Masulli Reyes/The News Journal)
Mageid said there are still many government officials who have stood with the Muslim community through these troubling times.
Mageid and Awad said they are confident Carney will be one of those officials.
“Of course, we are concerned, but what we have experienced my family and I is that such acts at the national level have brought the best and the worst out of America,” Awad said.
“We like to focus on the positive things.”
Contact Jessica Masulli Reyes at (302) 324-2777, [email protected] or Twitter @JessicaMasulli.
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Delaware state troopers and police officers lead the funeral procession for slain correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd Saturday. Delaware State News photo by Marc Clery
DOVER The widow of a prison guard killed during an inmate uprising at Delaware s maximum security prison is refusing to meet with Gov. John Carney. In a statement released by her attorney Wednesday, Saundra Floyd instead urged Carney to respond to demands of her family for the autopsy report on Steven Floyd and details on how he died.
Today the governor s office called me and asked if he could stop by this Friday to see how my family is doing. But actions speak louder than words, so my answer to that is no, the statement read. Just reply privately or publicly to my demand for the release of the autopsy of my husband. How did he die? Did he suffer greatly, or did he pass quickly? Was he tortured? Was he stabbed 100 times, as we have heard? Did he die in a great pool of blood, as is rumored? The statement, issued by attorney Thomas Neuberger, also indicated that the state is seeking reimbursement for what Neuberger described as thousands of dollars for Floyd s funeral expenses, paid with workers compensation funds.
They re playing hardball, said Neuberger, who has threatened to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Floyd s family.
Mr. Neuberger has already suggested he plans to sue the state, and seems intent on trying his case in the press, Carney spokesman Jonathan Starkey said. Considering potential legal action, it would be inappropriate to address his questions publicly. The governor hoped to meet with the Floyd family to check in and offer his continued thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. He still hopes to do so.
Last month, inmates took four correctional workers hostage at Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, setting off a nearly 20-hour standoff during which Floyd was killed. The siege ended when tactical teams used a backhoe to breach the building and rescue a female counselor after two other guards had been released. Through the statement issued by Neuberger, Mrs. Floyd claimed that her husband died because state officials have failed to follow several recommendations issued by a task force in 2005 after a female counselor at the Smyrna prison was taken hostage and raped by a serial rapist, who was later shot to death by a tactical response officer. The recommendations included providing correctional officers with better training and supervision, enhancing video surveillance and other equipment, and eliminating the heavy use of overtime because of chronic staffing shortages.
Carney said earlier this week that his fiscal 2018 budget proposal will include $2.3 million to hire 50 new guards at Vaughn Correctional Center and 25 new guards at the Baylor women s prison in New Castle. He also is proposing $1.2 million in new spending next year for equipment, and additional funding for training and recruitment. In the meantime, administration officials are allocating about $341,000 for immediate equipment purchases and are planning to increase security sweeps at Vaughn. Geoff Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, has said that if there had been the proper amount of staffing at the Vaughn prison, inmates would not have been able to overpower correctional officers and take control of a building.
We are absolutely at a breaking point at that facility when it comes to staffing, Klopp said Wednesday at a meeting of the House Corrections Committee.
Klopp reiterated a list of priorities for the correctional officers union, including a complete staffing analysis of all prison facilities and a complete overhaul of the salary structure for prison guards. The union is also calling for additional overtime and hazardous duty pay, and monthly paid training days. Department of Correction Commissioner Perry Phelps, who has said little publicly since the uprising, said the department is already working on a staffing analysis and other issues raised by the union. He also assured committee chairman James Johnson, D-New Castle, that DOC is working to prevent a recurrence of last month s incident, but he said he could not speak about specific security measures.
Are we where everyone would like to be? No, he said. Are we trying to get there? Yes.
Phelps, a former prison guard himself, also pledged to do everything he can to take care of correctional officers, saying they deserve way more respect than they get.
Randall Chase writes for the Associated Press