Just as many Muslims do, the Caliph feels particularly sensitive at this time about the wrongful treatment of Muslims in all aspects of daily life, particularly by the media, corporations, and governments of the Western world. I felt I should inform those of you who regularly follow the words of the Caliph about how badly I was treated when I flew on the Dutch airline KLM from Jakarta Indonesia to Kuala Lumpur on 6 Feb. 2006. As many of you know I had some time ago been diagnosed with a terminal illness, adenocarcinoma of the lungs with only a short time left to live. The cancer has spread to my spine causing extensive damage and making it very difficult for me to get around. I have been undergoing a revolutionary new cancer treatment in Malaysia for almost two years. This particular treatment leaves me very susceptible to chest infections and I have to be very careful as hundreds of others who have undergone this new form of treatment have died from chest and lung infections which are unfortunately well documented side effects of the treatment.
I have international commitments which sometimes require me to fly to other countries, but I have to have a wheelchair from the check-in counter to the airplane since I can only walk a very short distance. When you are doing work in the service of Allah you must not let difficulties stand in your way. I now always have to fly business class so as to protect myself as much as possible from additional harm to my health during these flights. On this KLM flight I flew business class, and arrived at the plane in a wheelchair. The KLM flight attendant who later treated me so badly saw me arrive at the plane in the wheelchair and showed me where my seat was in business class section.
As soon as I arrived at my seat I realized the temperature was freezing cold and a significant draft was being caused by the frigid air blowing from the air conditioning system. I would estimate the temperature could have been as low as 5 degrees Celsius. I was dressed for the warm tropical climate of the Indonesian/Malaysian area. Within one minute I was shivering and greatly worried about my health as I am now extremely susceptible to chest infections, and I had just completed a course of antibiotics in an attempt to recover from the previous chest infection. I had just about gotten over the symptoms of cough, deep congestion, and other flu like afflictions of the previous lung infection in the days before the flight.
Immediately as I realized the freezing and drafty conditions in the business class area of the plane could have severe detrimental effects on my health I politely asked the flight attendant if I could have a blanket because I was freezing and in very bad health; I am sure he could see I was shaking badly and he had already seen my health was bad as I had to arrive for the flight in a wheelchair. I was shocked when he told me I could not have a blanket. I indicated I was freezing and not at all well and he maintained that a blanket could not be given on that portion of the flight from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur. I tried to convince him of the seriousness of my need but he was adamant he would not give me a blanket. I would have asked another flight attendant but he was the only one in the business class area.
I was feeling quite desperate as I could tell within minutes there were physical signs that my health was deteriorating quickly. I once again asked for a blanket from the same flight attendant, a man about 50 years old and from his accent in English and his speech in the Dutch language I would assume was from the Netherlands. I tried to reason with him, still politely, saying that I had never in my life been refused a blanket on a flight before and that I had paid a significant amount of extra money to fly business class so I could receive decent treatment because of my bad health. I told him I was worried that being so unbearably cold for an extended period of time might cause me serious harm and that I could not believe he would not give me a blanket. He placed the responsibility for the refusal on KLM airlines as he told me that was just the way KLM airlines operates so there was nothing he could do.
Besides being an Islamic scholar I am also a highly trained clinical psychologist and was a university professor in psychology many years ago in the United States. I was my perception from certain things the flight attendant said, and his manner in speaking to me, that he was actually enjoying having the opportunity to refuse me the blanket I needed so badly. I should mention that I almost always dress in a clearly Islamic manner, and that I was the only passenger I saw who was dressed in such an obviously Islamic manner on the plane. As usual I was wearing serban (turban), copia (skull cap), and juba (long shirt like garment). I mention this because I have seen surveys that show for some time there had been a lot of negative feeling toward Muslims in the Netherlands, even more so since the fairly recent murder by a Muslim of the film maker Theo van Gogh for insulting Islam. I can not help but believe that part of the reason I was treated so badly was because of racial/religious discrimination by a flight attendant from the Netherlands over these racist and religious tensions in his native country.
It was about five days ago now that this mistreatment occurred. I am still having trouble hearing due to a fluid buildup in my ears, I have been coughing almost continuously since the flight and the deep congestion has returned to my chest. All of this is much worse than before my flight. I can not even begin another of course of antibiotic treatment so soon after the last period of treatment. It is clear to me the wrongful treatment I received as I flew on KLM airlines has contributed to making my already bad health even worse, and to some degree, impossible to tell exactly how much, the health problem will almost surely further reduce my already short life expectancy. Most people suffering from lung cancer do not actually die from the cancer itself, but more often they die from respiratory ailments due to weakened lungs and suppressed immune system. Each time I get another respiratory infection I wonder if this will be the one I die from.
I have already contacted the administration of KLM airlines in Malaysia over the gross mistreatment I was subjected to. I consider the matters I have raised to be of the utmost importance. I asked the KLM management not insult me further by issuing a mere apology. If someone ran you over with their car and severely injured you because of their intention and/or negligence I am sure you would not consider an apology nearly sufficient compensation for the wrong done. If this wrong treatment I received on KLM airline had happened in the United States the airline would be liable for a civil if not a criminal lawsuit in the range of millions of US dollars for compensation. Of course I realize such lawsuits do not happen in much of the world including Indonesia and Malaysia, and I consider this to generally be a good thing.
Additionally, given the present sensitivities of Muslims and the Muslim world to harmful, discriminatory, and offensive treatment (including the publication of disgraceful cartoons of our beloved Prophet Muhammad) from European media, corporations, and governments, I see the importance of this matter being compounded many fold. It is my intention to not allow myself and Islam to be treated so shamefully. I have made a complaint over this appalling treatment in writing to KLM officials in Malaysia as a first step toward the highest levels of KLM corporate responsibility if a satisfactory solution can not be found at local and regional levels. I am assuming management personnel in the Netherlands, such as the KLM president Mr. L. M. van Wijk and the KLM CEO Mr. Ferdinand Cagey, would not appreciate a problem like this arriving on their desks if this most justified complaint was not able to be handled at the appropriate lower levels of management.
It is also my intention to make as public as possible the wrongful manner in which I was treated by KLM, the harm to my health both actual and potential caused by that mistreatment, and the seeming discrimination against Muslims being the cause of all this wrong treatment. I do this to ensure corporate responsibility is accepted for the harm inflicted by KLM staff and their airline, to ensure this never happens to me again, to ensure that such wrong treatment does not happen to any other KLM customers, particularly Muslims again, and to uphold the honourable place of Islam in the world against the wrongful treatment and discrimination so freely carried out by non-Muslim media, corporate entities, and governments. As a means to widely publicize this cruel mistreatment I am blessed to be in charge of one of the world’s largest and most prominent Islamic websites.
My Foundation’s website, Islamic-World, is accessed up to three million times each month by visitors from about 140 countries, most of whom are Muslim. I decided to place a full account of the wrongful treatment I received by KLM airline prominently on the Islamic World website so others can know of this terrible treatment by KLM and the possibly discriminatory reasons behind this wrongful treatment. I will also provide interested readers with ongoing account of my attempts to have this matter remedied by complaints and communication with the increasingly high levels of KLM management that become necessary to have this serious matter resolved. If the response by KLM management is fair, right, and equitable I will be fair and positive in my appreciation of the corporate effort to right this most serious wrong against myself and against Islam. If the result is not satisfactory I will give an objective account of the reasons for my displeasure.
I pray I am not in any way being unfair making all this public. When a wrong occurs it should always be made right. The wrongful behaviour of KLM airline staff toward me without a doubt put my life at risk, caused me to suffer serious discomfort, caused possible further deterioration of my health, and has likely shortened my life to some degree. I feel very strongly that non-Muslim media, businesses, and governments must accept that they cannot continue to discriminate against and harm Muslims with impunity.
I say to you my dear Muslim brothers and sisters; I would like all of you to keep an interest in the outcome of this complaint against the wrong and discriminatory treatment of the Caliph at the hands of KLM airlines. I am only asking the KLM management to take these matters as seriously as I do and hope they will act accordingly and appropriately to promptly redress this wrong. If they do not treat the Caliph in a fair and right manner it can be considered an insult to every Muslim in the world. The Caliph is the titular head of the Muslim Ummah, ideally representing leadership of all the world’s Muslims. If KLM management make right the wrong they have committed against the Caliph it should be welcomed as a sign of respect to the rights of Muslims all over the world and they should be rewarded by the appreciative good feelings of Muslims and continued utilization of their services; if KLM management choose not to make right the wrong they have committed against the Caliph it may be taken as a sign of disrespect to the rights of Muslims all over the world and it would therefore be correct to ask that all Muslim utilization of their services be discontinued.