Apparently was an Orthodox Jew last Wednesday who made the mistake of praying on a United Airlines flight. The NY Times has the complete story:
The passenger, a bearded Orthodox Jewish man wearing a black hat and a long black coat, went to the back of a United Airlines jet with a small prayer book and started praying, according to a witness who was aboard. Two flight attendants tried to get his attention, but he ignored them, according to the witness, Ori Brafman, who was sitting a few rows away.
The flight attendants returned with a third attendant, who also failed to get the passenger to return to his seat on Flight 9, which was scheduled to leave for San Francisco at 9:15 p.m.
Two friends traveling with the man explained to the attendants that once the prayer is started, it must be finished without interruption, Mr. Brafman said. The man returned to his seat after he finished the prayer, which lasted about two and a half minutes, Mr. Brafman said, but the attendants had called a customer service agent.
“He was sitting in his seat, and said, ‘I don’t know what to do,’ to his friends,” Mr. Brafman said. “He had an oy vey moment.”
The agent ejected the man from the plane. There were no raised voices during the incident, and no other passengers complained, Mr. Brafman added.
So here's the thing. I don't exactly remember what my reaction to a similar situation a few years ago was, but it probably wasn't super-sympathetic. It's sad to see some of the comments on the old Ynet article:
"The Hassidim here in Montreal are gentle and prayerful, but they are lacking in any sort of social grace when it comes to interacting with the general population. Maybe B'nai Brith could spend its time sensitizing the Hasidic community to the level of paranoia on airplanes at present and recommend informing the flight crew in advance that they are going to be behaving in an unorthodox manner."
"I can understand passengers freaking out- jews are so hated and maybe they thought he knew something, plus the hasidic dress is so starnge looking-like the arabs dress."
"no weirdos on planes: You need to just chill on planes these days: no hats or loud prayers or calls to God or Allah. "
"Praying like that does not belong on a plane; do it in private. Why the whole world has to see that you are so devout. Some consideration can be shown to fellow human beings, who do NOT want to be confronted with this. That people, not familiar with this way of praying freak out is understandable. "
"Whether it's Christianity, Judaism, or Islam it should all be practiced in private places, not public."
And one could make the case that the Air Canada case was even less justified than the United one, because the man was just sitting in his seat, as opposed to United, where the man was standing up in the back of the plane. (Interestingly enough, the same story on a non-Jewish news site seemed to have more people arguing for the man's civil liberties.)
However what really irks me about the United thing are all the comments to the news story. The worst ones were on ABC:
"I pray too, but this is reducing it to showmanship, a parody of faith."It gets better. There's also USA Today:
"f you don't follow safety instructions, you should not be able to fly, that doesn't change because of someone's personal religious preference - they should have carried him off while praying, why wait? It's pretty simple. He can pray, but not when it inconveniences or puts the safety of others at risk -- he was an inconsiderate, selfish, pious, arrogant person. I wish they had arrested him and put him in jail overnight."
"I for one am glad that Prayer Boy got booted off the flight. He could and should have finished his prayers BEFORE boarding the aircraft, thus not subjecting his fellow passengers to being delayed while he got his religious freak on. People need to start realizing that the airlines are not Burger King - you don't always get it "your way". "
" Jesus condemned this showy display when praying and he was a Jew (Read Matt. 6:5-7)...Think about it."
"When you pray, you're just talking to yourself. How much longer are people going to delude themselves into thinking that they have magical abilities to communicate telepathically with invisible and non-existent sky-fairies?"
" He must have been "clinging" to his religion. I suppose at least he wasn't also "clinging" to his gun... There is that."
"I wish people would stop paying respect to the completely irrational, and often dangerous, superstitions of religious individuals..."
"Why did he have to be standing in the back, why didn't he start in time to be finished when he needed to be in his seat. I respect anyone's choice of faith, but no one should think their faith and rituals are more important than the other 100-200 people on board."
"Wow, this God guy is tough. He demands that you ignore flight attendant instructions. He requires that you inconvenience all those around you. And he'll smite you down if you pray from your seat."
"ALL RELIGIONS State that we should love and/or respect our fellow Man. This shows blatant disrespect for the other people on the plane. This has nothing to do with anyones respect for a straingers religion as much as It has to do with a Religious Zealot Who (as through-out history) has let their EGO control what they think the word of God is. ( Remember the 1st commandment???: " I am the lord your God. You shall have no other Gods before Me." This means; Don't think your self as a God. Keep your EGO Minimal."
"Religion and stupidity walk hand in hand. This story is just another ridiculous manifestation of both. Religion and stupidity are the reasons we have to take off our shoes while boarding the plane and can’t bring a bottle of water."
"He was praying to the tooth fairy!! When are supposedly intelligent people(?) going to realize the mass delusion in which they place themselves. Our planet is not likely to survive unless we rid ourselves of such insanity. There is not one iota, one shred of evidence to support such preposterous notions. For the sake of my grandchildren and those who come after them, please wake up."
"Pretty much the last person I'm going to want to see on a plane is someone that is acting like a religious zealot. The terrorists on 9/11 were deeply religious too, in their minds. I'm glad they kicked this buffoon off."
"I can't understand some thing. If he was supposed to pray at this time, Why didn't he plan another time to fly? I've never meat someone who can read scriptures but could tell time. ( This does not look too good for the Jewish Faith)."
"Would all of you who are defending this jerk be doing so if he was a practicing member of a Santaria church and sacrificing a live chicken on the plane? Its getting so that anybody can do anything in the name of religion and its supposed to be ok. When did the 21st century become the 10th century? "
"Orthodox jews..think that they can do this when ever they want (I am jewish by the way)...I recall one of them cutting the line at the airport and made up some story that he has a heart problem..just to not wait in line with the rest of us."
"Any type of religious extremism on a plane is very unsettling. Don't forget the 9/11 hijackers brought along their religious books on the plane as well. I'm not saying you can't pray on a plane, but doing so standing up and ignoring instructions indicates a lack of mindfulness of the world around you, and this is something that has caused many people do to crazy things."
"this guy is a classic jerk, imposing his ideas on all the passengers...it really gives the orthodox jews a bad name..and they deserve it ..ps i am jewish...and am tired to see orthodox jews give the communities they live in problems by not following common sense rules."
"When you pray, you should do do in private. This is what the Bible commands (Matt 6:5). I KNOW what you are going to say. He is Jewish. Even though Jews do not recognize (I chose that word very carefully) Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, does this mean that they should ignore anything and everything He taught ?"
"Isnt it typical that terrorists pray prior to committing their acts? Thus, he should have been fully aware that his behavior was suspect & warranted his removal."
"How did they know he was a real Orthodox Jew and and not a terrorist disguised as one? If he had blown up the plane everyone would have said" Why didn't they throw him off?""
"Do your freak'n praying at home or your place of worship, don't inconvenience other for your ignorance. If you need to pray on an airplane, make sure you are in your seat. How stupid can these people get. I agree with the flight attendants 100% to throw this idiot off the plane."
"If this bozo is given two minutes then the fair thing would be everyone on the plane gets two minutes. Let's see 2 minutes x 100 people.... fair is fair right?"
"If we let one religious twit do this we have to let them all do it. You think the Hasidic Jew was distracting wait till the Wiccan wants to light candles."
"Why didn't this nut case pray prior to getting on the airplane. This guy just wanted his 2 minutes of fame and he got it!"
"religion, and it's extremists, is what brought the 4 planes down on September 11, 2001. There can be zero tolerance with religion-all religions are the same-when it comes down to protecting me, airlines, and what's left of our sad state of government. To defend this person's urge to act inappropriate in public, on a plane no less, is ludicrous."
"It doesn't matter if the praying was done by a Christian, Jew, Muslim or Hindu, there are too many examples of terrorist praying and then blowing up wherever they are. Rules are rules and should pertain to everyone."
"Why did he feel compelled to do what he did at that very moment? What a dork. There's a time and place for everything. He was on an aircraft for cripes sake!... He became suspect when he did not respond to flight attendents. He could have been doing that as a farewell before a bomb went off. Hey, it's okay to be anal and nervous now at days. ...too many freaks out there."
"If he is orthodox why he flying and not riding a horse?"
"What a moronic comment!! Because they "explained the ritual". that makes everything just oh-so-right????? If my friends explained that I was pleasuring myself in the back seat because it was a stress reliever before a flight, should I also be allowed to remain on the plane??"
"What an a-hole. They shouldn't have put him on another flight. Let him pray all the way to California on a Greyhound bus."
"What a whack-job! This man needs to be "grounded" for the remainder of his time here on earth, and the FAA needs to place him on the "international flight ban" list."
"I am so sick of people hiding behind "religion" to act like jerks and weirdos. This guy knew what he was doing was going to cause problems."
""And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you."- Jesus (Matthew 5:5-6)"
"Yes, there is nothing more PHONY than people praying in public. In the real world that "2 minutes" would likely be more than ten minutes and the whole flight schedule would be in a holding pattern - all for one narcissistic fool."
"I honestly think some people pray in public just to be seen praying, why I don't know. i wouldn't doubt if he did this just to see if he would get a reaction, now my gut tells me to watch and wait for the lawsuit...."
"let him stay home if he wants to pray. Prayer is a private matter and should be kept to yourself. Maybe some of these nut cases will learn to shut up and sit down in the future."
"Don't schedule your flight if you have to pray at that time. Easy enough for your cult religion."
"His ritual of Judaism could have waited until the next time he attended Synagogue. Keep it out of the airplane..."
And Gothamist, which started things off on the right tone by including a little editorial of its own- "Kids, this is why you ‘Just Say No’ to prayer.":
"why did he start praying outside his seat? i've sat next to plenty of Orthodox men on flights and they usually just say their prayers right in their seat. this guy was an idiot."
"Orthodox Jews only listen to their God. They don't care what some stickin stewardess says. Serves him right."
"When many suffer for one it's wrong. If the guy wanted to pray let him, as long as others don't have to hear his shit or be delayed or in any other way be involved in his mumbo jumbo crap. He should be banned from all UA flights and take a cab along with that bitch Naomi Campbell next time he wants to go from point A to point B."
"i know many flight attendants (long story) and they all agree that orthodox and hasidic jews are the rudest, most pushy passengers on any given flight. you might construe this as anti-semitism, but you'd be wrong."
As for myself, I think the man made a mistake, both in his timing, in choosing to stand rather than sit, and in not explaining to the attendants either before-hand or during his prayer. And I think the airline also overreacted, particularly given that by the time the agent came to deal with him, the man had already finished and was back in his seat (something a lot of people seem to be overlooking). But a lot these comments are just hateful, ignorant, or both. Conflating an Orthodox guy davening maariv with the 9/11 terrorists is a particularly good one. There's plenty of fault to go around here, but the comments are by far the worst part. He's an idiot, whack-job, zealot, twit, nutcase, a-hole, inconsiderate, arrogant, a faker, or gunning for a lawsuit. He should be jailed or banned from flying. Wow. And how lovely that sandwiched between all that hostility from atheists are a few nuggets of Christian readers who take the opportunity to remind us all just how NOT CRAZY Jesus was, you know, just saying.
One interesting thing is that in every comment cluster, a few people invariably say, "If he was a Muslim no one would have cared," usually followed by someone saying, "If he was a Muslim he'd be dead."