Speak Arabic = Police Custody for 3 Hours

December 9, 2005

  • Jeff Yang reports on what appears to be the decline of AZN TV, which is only 8 months old. He writes, "A 24-hour channel featuring unique original programming for Asian Americans, backed by the biggest and most powerful entity in the cable business? It seemed too good to be true. And apparently it was."
  • What is a post 9-11 America like? Click here for a first-person story in the Chicago Tribune about being stopped and questioned by police for 3 hours all because some guy decided you were a terrorist (with no proof). Ahmad A. Ahmad, 22, works at the Tribune and was waiting for a train when a man called the police on him. Ahmad writes:

    There was the stranger, pointing to me, "He is going to blow up the Amtrak!"

    The man told police he understood Arabic and had overheard my conversation. He thought I was talking to some terrorist cell when I was chatting with my mother.

    Turns out the stranger doesn't speak Arabic at all. I wonder if the police, who Ahmad says were courteous, let the stranger go, or if they can press charges against him for making the whole thing up, like in the run-away bride case. In some places you can be fined for placing false emergency calls.

  • Contributor: 

    Melissa Hung

    Founding Editor

    Melissa Hung is the founding editor of Hyphen. She was the editor in chief for the magazine's first five years and went on to serve in many other leadership roles on the staff and board for more than a decade. She is a writer and freelance journalist. Her essays and reported stories have appeared in NPR, Vogue, Pacific Standard, Longreads, and Catapult, among others. She grew up in Texas, the eldest child of immigrants. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.



    My first reaction:Lock the bastard up!Then again, the person may have truly been acting in what he believed to be the public interest. Maybe he did understand Arabic. Judging events from the perspective of a news article may be a hasty decision, ill advised. My personal encounters with journalists don't give me cause for confidence in anything they say.Who the hell knows anything these days? Once you have experienced the power of "the State", or the "Authorities" in any form you will quickly realize that you are in a shitty situation. Doesn't matter what acronym they go by or what uniform they wear. Try eating a sandwich in Saudi Arabia in a crowded street during Ramadan. You will be jailed (or worse) for a fairy tale. Try looking the wrong way in some area the CIA is investigating, and you may end up tortured in Afganistan. The "reasons" may be skewed, but that is life. I believe people should treat other people how they themselves would want to be treated. That means no blowing up folks for some unprovable doctrine, or torturing people because you think you are simultaneously a bastion of democracy and an instrument of "God's will". Try to live this way and you may have a difficult passage through life. In fact that is almost guaranteed. That is about all I can say and I am, of course, rambling....That being said, I think the editorial assistant should press whatever charges are possible, and if hat doesn't work, then a big ol' lawsuit.