What’s WRONG with us?

Since my return from Amman and my immersion into the Arab culture, I’m extremely sensitive to crap like what happened to an Arab traveler at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas last week. This is a horrible story that suggests we are no better than the terrorists we’re trying to exterminate from the world. The consequences of our behavior may be unintended, but behavior is what others observe. And you can’t talk your way out of something you’ve behaved your way into.

Here’s the story, as reported Wednesday in The Las Vegas Sun.

German national Majed Shehadeh and his wife, Joanne Mulligan, had scheduled a surprise holiday visit with their daughter in California. Wanting to avoid LAX (because they’d been detained there 2 1/2 years ago), they went through Las Vegas. Mulligan traveled several days ahead of her husband, and when she went to the airport to get him last Thursday, she found he had been detained.

The 62-year old Shehadeh, a Syrian native, has a heart condition and was denied his own prescription medicine. He was held incommunicado, taken to a detention center, where his wife was refused access to him, went without medication for 36 hours, had nose bleeds and heart palpitations, and was eventually put on a plane back to Germany four days later.

Mulligan tried everything but was treated rudely and the holiday weekend worked against her.

Shehadeh told AP in a phone interview from his home in Alzenau, a small Bavarian village, that he had given an official at McCarran his German passport “and he looked to see which countries I visited. He found I had stamps that looked like Arabic and asked if they were fake.”

“Nobody ever informed me why I was being questioned,” he said. “All that was ever told to me was this had to do with Washington.”

An aide to (Rep. Diane) Feinstein later told the family that Shehadeh was on a “look-out list,” Mulligan told AP.

Mulligan, born in Massachusetts, retired as a math teacher for the U.S. military. She has lived in Germany since marrying, and the couple has visited the United States many times over the years. In 1996 she founded a nonprofit organization called People in Motion to help people in need, including children in Afghanistan and women in Bosnia.

Her husband’s detention “has to do with that we’re Muslim, that’s all,” she said.

Daughter Majida Shehadeh said, “When you’re a Muslim, you expect you’re going to get this in airports — a little more runaround. But being detained like this — it’s unbelievable. It’s unacceptable.”

The family is demanding to know why Shehadeh was detained and asks a curious question. “If he was a bad guy, why did they let him go? And if he was a good guy, why didn’t they let him join his family?” And according to the International Herald Tribune of Europe, the German government also wants an explanation.

Officials from the Germany’s Consulate General in Los Angeles will write shortly to U.S. immigration authorities in Las Vegas to ask why Shehadeh was detained, a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin said Thursday.

The consulate also will ask why U.S. officials allegedly relieved Shehadeh of his prescribed heart medicine, and why the immigration authorities did not inform the consulate about the case.

The spokesman said the consulate was following up a complaint from the man’s relatives that officials had taken away his medicine. Shehadeh has filed no formal complaint, he said.

A representative of the land of the free and the home of the brave (Oh, that’s us!) would only say that Shehadeh was detained, something we already knew.

I shudder at this kind of stuff, because I picture it happening to my family. I just cannot imagine what my daughter and her children would suffer, if this kind of thing happened to Waseem. I mean, it’s one thing to exercise security measures, but it’s quite another to dehumanize people in the process. Even if this man was some sort of threat, which I doubt, there is no justification for separating him so completely from his frightened and concerned family.

Way to go, Homeland Security. You’ve just lowered us, once again, in the eyes of a watching world.


  1. thedetroitchannel says

    yes, it is amazing what a mere handful of thugs have allowed us to reduce ourselves to.

    sad, but true.

  2. I agree with the above. Immigration has become insane here in America. If this guy is guilty, show us the evidence. Show us anything. PLEASE show us something.

    This type of thing is hurting travel to America. We have become the country that nobody wants to visit because of incidents like the above.

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