Dear Adam Saleh, hijacking Muslim sentiments is not funny

Published: December 22, 2016

Saleh is a video blogger and a YouTube star who attracts viewers with provocative clips. PHOTO: TWITTER

From CNN to Al Jazeera, Adam Saleh’s video has made headlines across the world.

Retweeted over 769,000 times on Twitter, the shocking footage shows him being escorted off a Delta airlines plane where he expresses outrage for getting booted. His crime, he says, was speaking a few lines of Arabic on the phone to his mother, an offense that was too much for his fellow passengers.

As expected, many online reacted with disgust.

In this volatile climate where Muslim extremists are committing horrific crimes, every day peace-loving Muslims are being targeted with acts of prejudice and violence in an increasingly right-wing leaning world. It is, therefore, natural to expect sympathies to fall with Saleh. But dig beneath the surface, and there seems to be more to this story than meets the eye.

For starters, Saleh is a video blogger and a YouTube star who attracts viewers with provocative clips.

In 2014, a video produced by Saleh and his partner went viral where he exhibited racial discrimination at the hands of a New York Police Department (NYPD) officer. It started with the duo being ignored by the officer for starting trouble while wearing western attire, and ended with the pair being frisked when wearing traditional Arabic clothing. The purpose of the video was to show bias against people of Middle Eastern origin.

The now removed description of the video said,

“We were filming another video for our channel with our cultural clothing but we kept getting followed by police. So, we decided to film this social experiment on racial profiling. Too many innocent people get stopped and frisked every day because of what they wear or their skin colour. We’re against people stereotyping others because of what they wear or what skin colour they are. Hope you all can spread the message and help bring an end to this.”

The only problem is that the video was a hoax.

Playing into Muslim victimhood, the video had been shared by the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) who later demanded an apology from Saleh.

Fast forward to February 2016 and Saleh was at it again.

In a video, titled ‘Counting down in Arabic on a plane experiment’, he tries to goad a reaction by counting down in Arabic as if he is counting down to an explosion.

This is to the annoyance of his friend and fellow passenger who is clearly as uncomfortable with the prank as we the viewers are.

Adding to the suspicion regarding this latest incident involving Saleh, are tweets by journalist Soledad O’Brien.

The whole situation reminds me of Yasmin Seweid, the 18-year-old hijab-clad Muslim girl who lied about being attacked by Trump supporters in order to escape the wrath of her strict family for being out past her curfew and created an international incident. She now faces a year in jail for carrying on with such a grave lie.

What troublemakers like Saleh and Seweid should realise is that actual peace-loving people are falling victim to anti-Muslim sentiment every day. People like Faisal and Nazia Ali were actually kicked off a Delta Airlines plane for merely ‘sweating’ and saying ‘Allah’ earlier this year in August.

Anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased alarmingly since the rhetoric from European and American politicians took a turn for bigotry. On the same day that a Muslim screamed out ‘Allah’ as he shot the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, a Tunisian Muslim asylum seeker allegedly carried off a terrorist attack in Germany, and a prayer hall in a mosque in Switzerland was shot up by a Swiss citizen of Ghanaian origin.

With every lie, pranksters like these may earn their 15 minutes of fame, but at the cost of diluting the struggle of those facing actual injustice. For every Saleh whose videos are picked up and then broken down as pranks, a real victim finds it impossible for someone to believe his story.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • aaaaa

    This is still a developing story. Nobody really knows the undisputed facts surrounding this incident. Everybody has their own version out right now. I get that it’s an easy article, but quite irresponsible in the absence of any confirmed facts surrounding this event.Recommend

  • Maryam Batool

    The writer become an investigator and a judge himself. I could not find anything that negate Saleh’s version of the story. Being a prankster does not mean that he lies all the time.Recommend

  • Saqib Ali Rana

    the writer did not provide any evidence that negates adam saleh’s story, something which the headline promised.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    So you accept his version of the events but not the complaining passengers and Delta Airlines version!
    Let’s look at the Facts:
    He is a known YouTube prankster who has allegedly posted fake videos in the past!
    Case in point the video listed above where CAIR demanded an apology from him!
    The call to “his mom” is allegedly disputed by passengers on the flight!
    The purpose of his “counting down in Arabic” video was exactly what?
    Perhaps if you were on the flight sitting close to Mr YouTube you might have a better perspective of what really happened!Recommend

  • Amer

    There was no logic in this blog…. so, there is no point in even arguing about it.Recommend

  • ab

    He put his point acrossRecommend