Last week, MPAC [Muslim Public Affairs Council] completed a quarterly training for Transportation Security Officers (TSO) with about 2,200 officers receiving training on cultural awareness about Islam and Muslims. This was an important achievement for MPAC and the Muslim American community in light of the recent airport security changes and because TSOs are responsible for screening passengers and luggage.
MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati, MPAC Civic Outreach Coordinator, Saadia Khan and MPAC volunteers, Nisreen Malhis and Sireen Sawaf, conducted the trainings at Los Angeles International Airport for the past two months. They discussed the diversity of Muslims around the world from cultural dress to language to tenets. The four trainers taught the TSOs how to properly handle a Quran and discussed the different ways Muslim women and men choose to cover or dress. For example, the TSOs learned if a woman wears hijab and needs a secondary screening she should be screened in a private area by a female TSO officer.
The training sessions allowed trainers to discuss the common practice of Muslims praying in various areas of the airport, adding that they do this because LAX does not have a designated prayer area as other airports do.
The officers were extremely receptive and interested in the information presented. They had many questions regarding the meaning of jihad, sharia, and the rights of women in Muslim countries.
LAX is the third largest airport in the world, making it important for Transportation Security Administration to conduct cultural awareness trainings in order for officers to effectively and efficiently keep the airports secure rather than deciphering cultural tenets. MPAC commends LAX for taking the initiative to implement these trainings.
Earlier this year at the last quarterly training, the TSA invited asked Nirinjan Khalsa of the Human Relations Commission to highlight the Sikh religion.
–Marium F. Mohiuddin ([email protected])