The Transportation Security Administration would like you to know something: Do not panic if you see Muslims observing Ramadan.
The Muslim holiday starts Monday evening. On its website, the TSA released a statement telling travelers and security staff that for the next month Muslims might be seen in airports "engaged in religious practices and meditations during Ramadan." To avoid concern, apparently, the TSA lists some of those practices, many of which are commonplace for many Muslims.
TSA would also like to inform the traveling public that they may notice passengers who are observing Ramadan engaging in the following activities at the airports:
- Passengers observing Ramadan will abstain from any food, water, smoking, or vices of any kind.
- Passengers observing Ramadan may be more likely to engage in prayer at airports or on airplanes while traveling than at other times during the year.
- Before prayer, Muslims go through ablution, i.e., a cleansing or washing of certain areas of the body that is usually done in private if possible, but may be observed in airport restrooms.
- Passengers observing Ramadan may be seen reading, listening to, or orally reciting the Holy Quran at airports and on airplanes.
- Passengers observing Ramadan may carry prayer beads and "whisper" prayers constantly.
Until the end of Ramadan, marked by Eid al-Fitr starting the evening of Aug. 7, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, avoiding food and water.
The TSA doesn't stop with just Islam. The agency also has a post on the Jewish holiday of Passover, expecting increased volume of people traveling during those days.
Our workforce is aware of the unique items carried by individuals and religious practices individuals may engage in while traveling. This may include reading of religious text or participating in prayer rituals. Observant travelers may be wearing a head covering, prayer shawl, and phylacteries — in Hebrew, kippah, tallit, and tefillin. Some travelers will be carrying boxes of matzoh, which are consumed as part of the Passover ritual. Matzoh can be machine or handmade and are typically very thin and fragile, and break easily. Passengers traveling with religious items, including handmade matzoh, may request a hand inspection by the TSA of the items at the security checkpoint.
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