Man prays in airplane aisle, for no particular reason

Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. That was my first reaction when I saw several versions of this bizarre little story from the tense world of airline travel, especially in the skies around Washington, D.C.

This is one of those cases in which I really need to ask GetReligion readers to look at the whole story. Trust me, this will not take long. This is all of the CBS News item.

DENVER -- A United Airlines flight from Denver landed safely in Washington, D.C. after its crew declared an emergency, reportedly because a passenger began praying in an aisle.

According to KUSA-TV in Denver, the plane was escorted by military jets after the crew declared the emergency. The plane landed Thursday at Dulles International Airport.

The Denver TV station says the crew made the decision because a male passenger started praying in the middle of an aisle.

United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy says a passenger on flight 662 from Denver to Washington wasn't following flight attendant instructions for landing.

What in the world is going on here?

I mean, it's pretty easy to figure out what is going on in this incident. Readers are, I assume, supposed to figure out that a man prostrated in the aisle during one of the five periods in the day in which practicing Muslims are supposed to face Mecca and pray. This is not the only possible interpretation of what is going on, but it is the most logical explanation.

The question, for me, is why the reporter didn't simply provide that information. Have we reached the point where people cannot mention Islam in connection with security-issue stories, even when that is a fact readers need to know to understand an event in the news? Surely Muslims would not be offended to know that this man was trying to pray.

And then there is the issue of the jet fighters. Did anyone else want to know, if the crew had enough time to call for military intervention, how long it took for this incident to unfold? Why not simply provide a few words that give that detail?

As a Baltimore-Washington area flyer, I also know that another factor almost certainly played a role in this case. Was the airplane flying into Reagan International? If so, passengers are required to stay in their seats for the final hour of the approach. Did this man, while trying to pray, violate that law? If so, why did he stay prostrated after finishing his prayers?

Or did he stay prostrated? I suspect that he began to pray in the aisle, then the crew ordered him to return to his seat. He refused to do so and, thus, they called for the fighter jets. It would have been nice to have known if the man voluntarily returned to his seat after completing his prayers.

All of these questions could have been answered in, oh, two sentences. Why not provide the basic details?

Please respect our Commenting Policy