Homeland Kafka

On January 2, 2005, Rahinah Ibrahim, then completing a PhD in engineering at Stanford University, arrived at San Francisco airport expecting to board a United Airlines flight back to her native Malaysia to attend a conference.

What happened next is the stuff of Kafka. It also helps put in context the relatively brief indignities endured at the US border by former housing minister Tokyo Sexwale and other ANC stalwarts when they have been mistakenly flagged on immigration officers’ computer screens as belonging to a terrorist organization and sent to “secondary”.

When the clerk at the check-in counter typed Ms. Ibrahim’s name into his terminal, back shot a warning that the burqa-clad traveller was on the federal No-Fly List of persons deemed too much of a terrorism threat to be let on an aircraft. The clerk summoned police who in turn called the Transportation Security Agency. Upon instruction from the HQ TSA calls without irony “The Freedom Center”, Ms. Ibrahim was handcuffed and detained. Continue reading “Homeland Kafka”