Category Archives: Arabic

More Translation Follies?

Oh no, here we go again. More excuses to hire more Muslims in sensitive government agency jobs, while rejecting Jewish applicants who are well-versed in these languages. Why reject Jewish and other linguistic experts? Because the Muslim religious mafia objects, that's why, and what oil-greased Muslim thugs demand, oil-greased Muslim thugs get. Despite the fact that several of these folks have been arrested on charges of espionage, have lobbied for special privileges and set asides at various agencies, and have conducted various other acts of jihad right under the nose of our own homeland security forces, the stealth jihad rolls on. If the Pentagon and CIA obliged them under the Bush administration, how much more so under the current POTUS, who has made it perfectly clear how well he treats his friends and their enemies in the Middle East...

Leon Panetta
Leon Panetta

CIA DIRECTOR Leon Panetta will ask Congress in the coming weeks to fund an "aggressive" five-year plan to enhance the spy agency's language capabilities. In a letter to agency employees Friday, Mr. Panetta said the goal of doubling the number of analysts and collectors proficient in foreign languages is imperative for dealing with developing threats around the world.

"Language skills are the keys to accessing foreign societies, understanding their governments and decoding their secrets," Mr. Panetta said. "This important initiative will require significant new funding. In the coming weeks and months, I will reach out across the intelligence community, to the Office of Management and Budget, and most importantly, to our partners in Congress to find the necessary resources."

The clandestine agency hopes to dramatically transform the way the CIA trains officers in foreign languages. Languages of particular interest are Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Pashto (spoken in Afghanistan), Urdu (used in Pakistan), and Persian.

Muslim Roots Of The Blues

Here is an excerpt from a San Francisco Chronicle article suggesting that the American Blues style of popular music may actually have Muslim slave origins.

BAILEY LIVES ON Georgia's Sapelo Island, where a small community of blacks can trace their ancestry to Bilali Mohammed, a Muslim slave who was born and raised in what is now the country of Guinea. Visitors to Sapelo Island are always struck by the fact that churches there face east. In fact, as a child, Bailey learned to say her prayers facing east—the same direction that her great-great-great-great-grandfather faced when he prayed toward Mecca.

Bilali was an educated man. He spoke and wrote Arabic, carried a Qur'an and a prayer rug, and wore a fez that likely signified his religious devotion. (Bilali had been trained in Africa to be a Muslim leader; on Sapelo Island, he was appointed by his slave master to be an overseer of other slaves). Although Bilali's descendents adopted Christianity, they incorporated Muslim traditions that are still evident today.

The name Bailey, in fact, is a reworking of the name Bilali, which became a popular Muslim name in Africa because one of Islam's first converts—and the religion's first muezzin—was a former Abyssinian slave named Bilal. (Muezzins are those who recite the call to prayer from the minarets of mosques. ) One historian believes that abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who changed his name from Frederick Bailey, may have had Muslim roots.

"History changes things," says Bailey, 59, who chronicled the history of Sapelo Island in her memoir, "God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man."

"Things become something different from what they started out as."

The tiny community of Hog Hammock on Sapelo Island in Georgia is one of the earliest freed slave settlements, and it is still home to descendants of the original owners. That may change though, as the Gullah-Geechee people in the Hog Hammock community are being forced to sell because of soaring property taxes. The owners aren’t giving up without a fight, though, and are making their story known.

Hog Hammock has a population of less than 50, and according to resident Cornelia Bailey, the people there receive no county services. This makes it difficult for the home and business owners in the community to understand why their property appraisals (and tax bills) are soaring. The community has no school, no police station and only one paved road to maintain.

Read it all.

Disturbing Arabic Flash Cards

Arabic Flash Card
Arabic Flash Card Package

FLASH CARDS DESIGNED TO TEACH ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS of Arabic have a curious way of doing it. We've all seen flash cards used to teach math functions and simple words. But we're sure you haven't seen flash cards like these! One of our chapter leaders happened to be in a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Minnesota, and saw a package of flash cards apparently intended to help someone translate Arabic words and phrases into English.

What he saw when he bought the cards was, to say the least, far different than what he expected. Here is a sample of some of the English words and phrases translated from the Arabic in this flash card set. To see a PDF image of the actual flashcards, designed by Fethi Mansouri, please click HERE. You will need Adobe Reader or similar software to view the image.

  • "assassination attempt"
  • "counter strike"
  • "attack"
  • "air strike"
  • "enemy"
  • "The army seized power"
  • "We buried the dead man yesterday"
  • "to seize power"
  • "martyr"<
  • "to die in a battle"

I guess we're pretty straight-laced here in America. Our flashcards designed to teach English have such controversial words and phrases such as "thank you," "could you please help me?", and "what time is it?" I don't think you'll find an English translation flashcard set with words like "assassination attempt."

One has to wonder who would need an Arabic flash card set that translates "assassination attempt" into English. Then again, maybe we shouldn't have to wonder at all.

Guy Rodgers
Executive Director
ACT for America
P.O. Box 6884
Virginia Beach, VA 23456

ACT for America is an issues advocacy organization dedicated to effectively organizing and mobilizing the most powerful grassroots citizen action network in America, a grassroots network committed to informed and coordinated civic action that will lead to public policies that promote America's national security and the defense of American democratic values against the assault of radical Islam.

Islam: The Pillaging Civilization

Lord By the Sword
Lord By the Sword

In the question of the Golden Age of Islam, we have replied to this many times. You should read Fjordman's essay on that topic. Even in Europe's "Dark Ages" one is lead by rationality to believe the Europeans were evenly matched if not farther along than the Muslims.

To read postings by Muslims from the Middle East with all their spelling errors due to the lack of vowels in the Arabic language, one might question the whole "translation of texts" story that keeps getting repeated.

To suggest that once Rome was defeated, that the books of the collpased empire, which by then had circulated throughout Europe, were suddenly not available until an Islamic rescue is a rather quaint and fictitious notion. Did Greek and Roman 'thought' cease to exist simply because the empire had outlived its usefulness? Unlikely. Anything emanating from the Middle East after Islam was the result of them plundering it and bringing it home, and from the graces of their captives being able to preserve it.

Look to the Far East for the origin of the techniques of ceramics. Italy's own Marco Polo traveled through the Middle East on his way to China, and commented that there was nothing to be found but murderers, liars and thieves.

Even the new world was discovered because the merchants could not safely pass through the Middle East on their way to the Far East and they were looking for a safer route. Not necessarily a shorter route—a safer route. Remember the Cape Horn was also a very dangerous route.

Muslims take credit for far many things that, if one really investigates closely, just does't make sense. The fact is simple. Islam is the pillaging civilization.

Making The Case For Darfur Defense

Arab Supremacy alert: African Muslim refugees from Darfur scatter across Sudan to Chad fleeing genocide at hands of Arab Muslim soldiers.

By Hugh Fitzgerald

Osama bin Laden's [crew] is now attacking the government in Khartoum, decrying the permission given by the fanatical Arab Muslims in Khartoum to the "infidels"—i.e., allowing in some completely ineffective troops from the African Union to "keep the peace" in Darfur. He needn't worry. Turabi is still Turabi, and the Muslims of Khartoum are just as fanatically vicious as they ever were. They are just willing to be a bit more mindful of Muhammad's "war is deception" as they attempt to diminish Western pressure on them. Hence that "peace treaty" with the Christians and animists in the southern Sudan, which "treaty" is, of course, merely a hudna or "truce" treaty and, for the past six months at least, has been grossly violated by the Sudanese government—and with seeming indifference by the Western powers, which content themselves with the notion that there is now an agreement, a "peace agreement," in the southern Sudan, and they can all forget about that part of the Sudan.

In Darfur, the Sudanese government has made sure that the troops will only be from the African Union, and has repeatedly said that not a single Western soldier will be allowed in. In other words, there will be no force effective enough to smash the Janjaweed, and protect the black Africans being killed for the crime of being black African, rather than Arab, Muslims.

Osama Bin Laden and his Arabs famously treated the Afghani Muslims with indifference, or contempt. The Arabs, after all, are the "best of peoples" to whom the Qur'an was given, and—so Muslims believe—in Arabic. In his remarks on the Sudan, he reveals his indifference to, or rather his tacit approval of, the mass murdering of black Africans. That is not surprising. What is surprising is how this is overlooked by the entire Western world, including those—such as Nicholas Kristof—who write about the Sudan without any mention, much less understanding, of either Islam, or that aspect of Islam that makes it a vehicle for Arab cultural, linguistic, economic, and political imperialism. That subject is too difficult and too troubling for the heart-on-sleeves (and Pulitzers carefully pocketed) likes of Nicholas Kristof and others like him, who can report, who can be mere reporters, full of their easy anguish, but who cannot make sense, for themselves much less for others, of what it is they have been reporting on. They cannot explain the promptings, the attitudes, the atmospherics, that move the people who run the government in Khartoum. They cannot explain the Arab Muslim view of non-Arab Muslims. Don't expect someone on the mental level of Nicholas Kristof to conceivably beable to make a connection between the massacres of Kurds by Arabs in Iraq, and the cultural and linguistic imperialism of the Arabs directed at the Berbers in Algeria, and what is happening in Darfur, where he reports so much, and understands so little.

No, Bin Laden doesn't have to worry about the Turabi government in Khartoum. They know exactly how to delay any day of reckoning.

There is no contradiction here between a policy of removal in Iraq and intervention in Sudan. Both measures would contribute to weakening the Camp of Islam. And that is, or should be, the goal.

But what of the American government? Does it realize what an opportunity it is missing by not sending a few thousand troops to seize all of the southern Sudan (with its oil, that would allow that region to pay for itself, and deny those oil revenues to the Arabs in the north?), and Darfur, and holding them until a referendum on independence can be held? That would be a blow for that "freedom" and "democracy" that, unlike in Iraq, might actually mean something because the southern Sudanese are not Muslims, and those in Darfur are nominal Muslims who, having had a taste of the Arab Muslim attitudes, might be willing to listen to the message of Christianity—already hundreds of refugees from Darfur have apparently, once out of the Sudan, converted to Christianity. Quite an opportunity presents itself for the American government to draw a line against further Arab (and Egyptian Arab) expansion further south, threatening Ethiopia, and Kenya, and the rest of the littoral, including Tanzaniya, which is where the old Arab slave trade had its entrepots, at Pemba and Zanzibar, to ship those black slaves to the Arab slave markets of Muscat, and beyond.

But Tarbaby Iraq gets in the way. It gets in the way of properly dealing with Iran's nuclear project. It gets in the way of domestic surveillance that is amply justified. It gets in the way of thinking clearly about the future of the Western countries now subject to demopraphic assault from within. It gets in the way of considering the Jihad as a world-wide phenomenon, one for which terrorism is the least effective of its weapons.

Bin Laden needn't worry about the Sudan. The government there knows exactly what it needs to do to protect the Arab Muslim position, and it has already violated the "peace agreement" with the south in ways that, if Bin Laden knew, would leave him well-satisfied. And they are doing much the same, or trying to, in Darfur.

Those who need to worry about the Sudan are the Infidels. Why has the American government not yet taken the step—the "humanitarian" step—of rescuing the black Africans of Darfur and the southern Sudan? Why has it not allowed its troops to be deployed effectively, instead of ineffectively—to attain exactly the wrong goals—in Iraq? Why has it not created a situation in which the Arab League would have to denounce the Americans (and other Western troops) for protecting the obviously grateful (see those photographs of smiling black faces surrounding their saviors and protectors) for ending the mass murder, by Arabs, of black Africans. What better way to drive a wedge between Arabs and sub-Saharan Africa? What better way to bring to the attention of black Americans, one group long targetted for sinister campaigns of Da'wa, that the Arabs conducted a slave trade that lasted far longer (indeed lasts to this day, despite Western efforts to end it), and claimed far more victims (see "The Hideous Trade") than the Atlantic slave trade and that the Qur'an permanently recognizes the institution of slavery (and Saudi clerics have restated that position repeatedly), and the fury of the Arab League over the rescue of black Africans in Darfur or southern Sudan ought to tell us all a great deal about the real attitudes and intentions of the Arabs.

The Sudan presents a great opportunity to weaken the Camp of Islam, through a very small deployment and application of force. Iraq, on the other hand, presents a great opportunity to weaken the Camp of Islam not through the bringing of "democracy" and keeping the country together, but by the removal of American troops, in order that the pre-existing fissures, sectarian and ethnic, may work themselves out, as they inevitably will.

There is no contradiction here between a policy of removal in Iraq and intervention in Sudan. Both measures would contribute to weakening the Camp of Islam. And that is, or should be, the goal.

The Task Before Earnest Americans

by Hugh Fitzgerald of Jihad Watch.

ISLAM IS AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING belief-system. It is quite different from those other monotheisms which, for obvious reasons while they are still a small group in the West, Muslims like to have "so very much" in common—that "three abrahamic faiths" pitch that once went over well, but nowadays appears to attract only the most muddle-headed or those who, while supposedly being Christian or Jewish clergymen, have brought their art of self-preening or cravenness to such a level that they become Defenders of the Faith, that Faith being Islam.

But Infidels can no longer be stopped. Once they begin to realize that the texts of Islam are not hermetic, and can be studied, they will study them. Once they realize that a knowledge of classical Arabic is not essential to learning about Islam, not least because 80% of the world’s Muslims know not a bit of Arabic, classical or otherwise, and that even many Arabs have difficulty understanding classical Arabic and certainly the text of the Qur’an (see Christoph Luxenberg on the 20% of the Qur’an that is inexplicable, in his view, until one recognizes an Ur-text of Syriac—that is, the Aramaic of Edessa), they will dare to open them. So Infidels are now free to read the immutable texts of Islam—Qur'an, hadith, and Sira—read, and reread, and study with growing understanding, but not necessarily growing delight or pleasure. They can find out about the interpretative doctrine of “naskh” or “abrogation,” by which—as in the common law—the texts deemed later cancel out, or abrogate, the texts deemed to have been set down earlier. And those later texts, presumably from the “Medinan” period of Muhammad’s existence, are far harsher than the softer, “Meccan” verses from the period when Islam was still weak.

Infidels can do so many things. They can find out, as apparently George Bush was incapable of finding out or being told, why Qur’an 5.32 cannot conceivably be understood without the context of the succeeding verse, 5.33. They can learn the real meaning, the meaning that Islam and Muslims assign to the seemingly benign Qur’anic observation that “there is no compulsion in religion.” They can find out what is Halal and what Haram in Islam. They can find out what Muslims are taught to think of sculpture, of paintings depicting living creatures, of music. They can find out what Muslims think of free and skeptical inquiry, and of the possibility of someone born into Islam being permitted to choose for himself whether to remain a Muslim, or to abandon that faith for another, or for no faith at all. They can find out. They can find out the details of Muhammad’s life, and consider what is the likely effect of those details on Muslims who are taught to regard Muhammad, a warrior who took part in 78 military campaigns, 77 of them offensive, as the Model of Conduct, the Perfect Man—uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil—for all Muslims, and for all time. Consider the implications of that in light of the beheading of the bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza, the attack on the inoffensive Jewish farmers of the Khaybar Oasis, the satisfaction taken when he heard of the assassinations of Abu Akaf and Asma bint Marwan, the “treaty-making model” of Al Hudaibiyyah, and of course the business with little Aisha.

The Qur’anic text is available online, a click away, with several different translations set out synoptically. Much of the Hadith is too, and so is the Sira. More and more studies by the great Western students of Islam, from the period of genuinely free and uninhibited study, roughly 1860 to 1960, are being gathered into sourcebooks (such as Bostom’s The Legacy of Jihad) or republished (especially in accessibly cheap Indian editions). More and more people have uncovered what the Great of the Past had to say about Islam, writing as they did in a period when no punches had to be pulled, and one could speak or write one’s mind. What did that great religious reformer John Wesley write about Islam? And the most learned of nineteenth-century American statesmen, John Quincy Adams? What did that wise student of men and events, Alexis De Tocqueville, write about Islam, based on his wide knowledge, including his observations in Algeria? What did Gladstone have to say about the Turks, and about their role in Europe, and about the Bulgarian Wars? What did Winston Churchill, with his knowledge of history, say about Muslims and Islam?

And above all, we know have the phenomenon of “defectors” from Islam, the apostates from Islam, who in the Western world are no longer fearful, and are willing to speak from their own lifetimes of experience of being born into Islam and then choosing to abandon it, some for Christianity (Walid Shoebat, Nonie Darwish), and some to be resolute freethinkers, such as Ibn Warraq, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ali Sina, Wafa Sultan, and so many more. Some have been Iranians, some Pakistanis, some Arabs, some from still other backgrounds. Muslim spokesmen would prefer that you pay as little attention to these keen observers as possible, and attempt on every occasion to shut them up or shout them down. But up or down, those Muslim spokesmen and enforcers have not succeeded, for when someone such as Ibn Warraq writes Why I Am Not a Muslim and Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes her own stirring testimony in Infidel, or when Ali Sina, with a growing army of fellow apostates, conducts his own lucid campaign from the heights of, Muslims in this country cannot, as they would in a minute in a Muslim country, shut such efforts down. Thus we, the Infidels, are the beneficiaries of such valuable witnesses, such indispensable temoignage.

It seems a century ago that we were willing to engage in those phony “dialogues” which always end up being sinister apologies for Islam, with the non-Muslim clergymen willingly or unwillingly inveigled into participating into a farce of supposedly symmetrical fault-finding, a farce that relies heavily on Infidel ignorance of Islam, and willingness to assume that if some belief-system is called a “religion” then of course it must be a force for good, must be beyond criticism, and only that “handful of extremists” are not good. But “extreme” about what? If Islam is in its essence so unthreatening, so peaceful, so tolerant, so good, then why should someone who is fanatically in favor of that something good be a threat to Infidels?

Those “interfaith candlelight ceremonies” that were all the rage just after 9/11/2001 ring hollow today, especially with the list of all those Muslim clerics who appeared to utter all kinds of soothing words, and then were discovered in the past, or at the same time, or later on, to have been heard, even recorded, making quite different statements when they thought no non-Muslims were around. It has been quite a revelation, too, to discover the Islamic websites that counsel Muslims in how to talk to Infidels, telling exactly the things that should be said and the topics that should be carefully avoided, even explaining that one should “let the Sisters talk” if the subject is Islam and the Treatment of Women. And there are those Muslim websites that inform parents just how to wangle special treatment—prayer rooms and suchlike—from teachers and principals. It’s down to a science, all written out. And eventually someone is going to put all that advice for fellow Muslims together, and publish it, but as a warning to, and for the edification of, Infidels.

No Infidels need any longer accept the word of tireless apologists as to what those texts say, or what their "meaning" is, especially when we have all been treated to example after example of Tu-Quoque-and-Taqiyya, sometimes by omission, sometimes by deliberate misinterpretation for the limitlessly naive. Furthermore, we have the long historical record of Jihad-conquest, and the texts, written by Muslims themselves, on the subject of the necessity of Jihad, and the rules of Jihad—here again, see Bostom's sourcebook, The Legacy of Jihad. We have 1350 years of such a record, and are entitled to study that record, from Spain in the west to what is present-day Indonesia in the east. We can study how non-Muslim populations slowly or quickly were reduced in size: what happened to the Copts of Egypt? What happened to the Jews and Armenians under Shah Abbas II in Iran? What happened to the Christians and Jews of the Arabian peninsula? What happened to the Christians of North Africa, where Tertullian and St. Augustine once lived? What happened to the Hindus of India under Muslim rule? Was it all wonderful, or is there reason to think that K. S. Lal and other Indian historians are right in their claim that between 60 and 70 million Hindus lost their lives? What was the historical record of Arab Muslims and slavery in Black Africa? Splendid? A tale of Muslim Wilberforces, long predating the English one? When was slavery formerly abolished in Arabia, and why? And is there any evidence of the continuance of slavery in Arab Muslim countries? And is there any evidence that Muslim scholars today have written about the continuing, indeed permanent, legitimacy of slavery, because it was recognized and accepted by Muhammad?

And these are not the only questions that need to be examined, studied, discussed. One wishes to know what happened to the Hindus of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Why did their numbers in the populations of those countries drop so precipitously, while the Muslim population of India has gone up, both relatively and absolutely? What has happened to Buddhists in southern Thailand, and why? What happened to the Christians of East Timor under Muslim rule? What has been happening to the Christians of the Moluccas? Or Iraq? Or Lower Egypt? Or in Lebanon over the past fifty years? What has happened to the French peres blancs and the Italian monks who tried to help the Muslims of Algeria, and for their pains were murdered? What is that history all about? What happened to the Armenians, and why was it that when Turks and Kurds killed those Armenians, they took pleasure in calling them "gavours" (Infidels), and were delighted if Armenian priests and their wives were among the victims, as recorded by eyewitnesses?

And here is yet another question that needs to be considered, to be discussed, to be pondered and not only in the corridors of power. What are the instruments of Jihad? Bush has focused quite monomaniacally on "terror"—as if he cannot bring himself to see the use of the Money Weapon, carefully-targeted campaigns of Da'wa, and of course a demographic conquest that has been openly discussed by Muslims. It has been discussed by Boumedienne at the U.N. in 1974, and by mild-mannered Pakistani accountants in the letters pages of "Dawn" (see that for December 5, 2001 for example). There are Muslim websites where these developments are openly discussed—as they are by all kinds of Muslim posters at this (see "Naseem") and other websites.

Is it illegitimate for inhabitants of the Western or larger non-Muslim world to study these matters, and to raise these issues? Why? Is it illegitimate to discuss the proposition that one has a perfect right to defend the legal and political institutions that one's own society has received as a legacy, that others before one helped to create, over time, and that in every respect are flatly contradicted by what Islam inculcates? Is the individualism of the West, are our individual rights, those enshrined in the Bill of Rights, and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to be simply swept away, or to be subject to incessant attack by the adherents of a collectivist faith who do not believe in free speech, or in freedom of conscience, including the freedom to leave one faith for another, or to have no faith at all? Are these illegitimate questions?

And is it illegitimate to point out how frequently in history states and peoples have felt it necessary to expel others in their midst, and that it is a bit hasty to denounce all such efforts (though many certainly should be denounced), especially when one considers the reasons, the historical context, of the Benes Decree, which was adduced not as a model to follow, but as a case to study and ponder?

We in the West have an obligation to defend a civilizational legacy, even if many of us, individually, have not exactly proved ourselves worthy of it. And that includes considering measures that others have undertaken, to see if they provide lessons, any lessons at all, for us at this point in our endangered history.

And that is hardly illegitimate. It is the very least we should ask of ourselves, and of those who presume to "lead" us, or rather, in the cant of this cant-filled age, presume to "take a leadership role." Many people in this country have gone far beyond their so-called leaders, Democratic and Republican, in their understanding of Islam. And that is a good thing. That is a necessary thing.

Listening To Americans Staying Alert

Listening to ordinary Americans told to stay alert is often overlooked by the powers of the air. The following first-hand report from reporter Annie Jacobsen is not unique, but it is important to note. She has since written a book describing her "probing" experience. There have since been many similar probes, which we never hear about in the mainstream media. So be diligent and do your homework. As Ms. Jacobsen puts it: "there's no one looking out for us."

Flying While Muslim...

On June 29, 2004, at 12:28 p.m., I flew on Northwest Airlines flight #327 from Detroit to Los Angeles with my husband and our young son. Also on our flight were 14 Middle Eastern men between the ages of approximately 20 and 50 years old. What I experienced during that flight has caused me to question whether the United States of America can realistically uphold the civil liberties of every individual, even non-citizens, and protect its citizens from terrorist threats. On that Tuesday, our journey began uneventfully. Starting out that morning in Providence, Rhode Island, we went through security screening, flew to Detroit, and passed the time waiting for our connecting flight to Los Angeles by shopping at the airport stores and eating lunch at an airport diner. With no second security check required in Detroit we headed to our gate and waited for the pre-boarding announcement. Standing near us, also waiting to pre-board, was a group of six Middle Eastern men. They were carrying blue passports with Arabic writing. Two men wore tracksuits with Arabic writing across the back. Two carried musical instrument cases—thin, flat, 18 long. One wore a yellow T-shirt and held a McDonald's bag. And the sixth man had a bad leg—he wore an orthopedic shoe and limped. When the pre-boarding announcement was made, we handed our tickets to the Northwest Airlines agent, and walked down the jetway with the group of men directly behind us.

My four-year-old son was determined to wheel his carry-on bag himself, so I turned to the men behind me and said, You go ahead, this could be awhile. No, you go ahead, one of the men replied. He smiled pleasantly and extended his arm for me to pass. He was young, maybe late 20's and had a goatee. I thanked him and we boarded the plan.

Once on the plane, we took our seats in coach (seats 17A, 17B and 17C). The man with the yellow shirt and the McDonald's bag sat across the aisle from us (in seat 17E). The pleasant man with the goatee sat a few rows back and across the aisle from us (in seat 21E). The rest of the men were seated throughout the plane, and several made their way to the back.

As we sat waiting for the plane to finish boarding, we noticed another large group of Middle Eastern men boarding. The first man wore a dark suit and sunglasses. He sat in first class in seat 1A, the seat second-closet to the cockpit door. The other seven men walked into the coach cabin. As aware Americans, my husband and I exchanged glances, and then continued to get comfortable. I noticed some of the other passengers paying attention to the situation as well. As boarding continued, we watched as, one by one, most of the Middle Eastern men made eye contact with each other. They continued to look at each other and nod, as if they were all in agreement about something. I could tell that my husband was beginning to feel anxious.

The take-off was uneventful. But once we were in the air and the seatbelt sign was turned off, the unusual activity began. The man in the yellow T-shirt got out of his seat and went to the lavatory at the front of coach—taking his full McDonald's bag with him. When he came out of the lavatory he still had the McDonald's bag, but it was now almost empty. He walked down the aisle to the back of the plane, still holding the bag. When he passed two of the men sitting mid-cabin, he gave a thumbs-up sign. When he returned to his seat, he no longer had the McDonald's bag.

Then another man from the group stood up and took something from his carry-on in the overhead bin. It was about a foot long and was rolled in cloth. He headed toward the back of the cabin with the object. Five minutes later, several more of the Middle Eastern men began using the forward lavatory consecutively. In the back, several of the men stood up and used the back lavatory consecutively as well.

For the next hour, the men congregated in groups of two and three at the back of the plane for varying periods of time. Meanwhile, in the first class cabin, just a foot or so from the cockpit door, the man with the dark suit—still wearing sunglasses—was also standing. Not one of the flight crew members suggested that any of these men take their seats.

Watching all of this, my husband was now beyond anxious. I decided to try to reassure my husband (and maybe myself) by walking to the back bathroom. I knew the goateed-man I had exchanged friendly words with as we boarded the plane was seated only a few rows back, so I thought I would say hello to the man to get some reassurance that everything was fine. As I stood up and turned around, I glanced in his direction and we made eye contact. I threw out my friendliest remember-me-we-had-a-nice-exchange-just-a-short-time-ago smile. The man did not smile back. His face did not move. In fact, the cold, defiant look he gave me sent shivers down my spine.

When I returned to my seat I was unable to assure my husband that all was well. My husband immediately walked to the first class section to talk with the flight attendant. I might be overreacting, but I've been watching some really suspicious things... Before he could finish his statement, the flight attendant pulled him into the galley. In a quiet voice she explained that they were all concerned about what was going on. The captain was aware. The flight attendants were passing notes to each other. She said that there were people on board higher up than you and me watching the men. My husband returned to his seat and relayed this information to me. He was feeling slightly better. I was feeling much worse. We were now two hours into a four-in-a-half hour flight.

Approximately 10 minutes later, that same flight attendant came by with the drinks cart. She leaned over and quietly told my husband there were federal air marshals sitting all around us. She asked him not to tell anyone and explained that she could be in trouble for giving out that information. She then continued serving drinks.

About 20 minutes later the same flight attendant returned. Leaning over and whispering, she asked my husband to write a description of the yellow-shirted man sitting across from us. She explained it would look too suspicious if she wrote the information. She asked my husband to slip the note to her when he was done.

Thugs in a suit. Nothing new here. We call them gangsters.

After seeing 14 Middle Eastern men board separately (six together, eight individually) and then act as a group, watching their unusual glances, observing their bizarre bathroom activities, watching them congregate in small groups, knowing that the flight attendants and the pilots were seriously concerned, and now knowing that federal air marshals were on board, I was officially terrified. Before I'm labeled a racial profiler or—worse yet—a racist, let me add this. A month ago I traveled to India to research a magazine article I was writing. My husband and I flew on a jumbo jet carrying more than 300 Hindu and Muslim men and women on board. We traveled throughout the country and stayed in a Muslim village 10 miles outside Pakistan. I never once felt fearful. I never once felt unsafe. I never once had the feeling that anyone wanted to hurt me. This time was different.

Finally, the captain announced that the plane was cleared for landing. It had been four hours since we left Detroit. The fasten seat belt light came on and I could see downtown Los Angeles. The flight attendants made one final sweep of the cabin and strapped themselves in for landing. I began to relax. Home was in sight.

Suddenly, seven of the men stood up—in unison—and walked to the front and back lavatories. One by one, they went into the two lavatories, each spending about four minutes inside. Right in front of us, two men stood up against the emergency exit door, waiting for the lavatory to become available. The men spoke in Arabic among themselves and to the man in the yellow shirt sitting nearby. One of the men took his camera into the lavatory. Another took his cell phone. Again, no one approached the men. Not one of the flight attendants asked them to sit down. I watched as the man in the yellow shirt, still in his seat, reached inside his shirt and pulled out a small red book. He read a few pages, then put the book back inside his shirt. He pulled the book out again, read a page or two more, and put it back. He continued to do this several more times.

I looked around to see if any other passengers were watching. I immediately spotted a distraught couple seated two rows back. The woman was crying into the man's shoulder. He was holding her hand. I heard him say to her, You've got to calm down. Behind them sat the once pleasant-smiling, goatee-wearing man.

I grabbed my son, I held my husband's hand and, despite the fact that I am not a particularly religious person, I prayed. The last man came out of the bathroom, and as he passed the man in the yellow shirt he ran his forefinger across his neck and mouthed the word No.

The plane landed. My husband and I gathered our bags and quickly, very quickly, walked up the jetway. As we exited the jetway and entered the airport, we saw many, many men in dark suits. A few yards further out into the terminal, LAPD agents ran past us, heading for the gate. I have since learned that the representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), the Federal Air Marshals (FAM), and the Transportation Security Association (TSA) met our plane as it landed. Several men—who I presume were the federal air marshals on board—hurried off the plane and directed the 14 men over to the side.

Knowing what we knew, and seeing what we'd seen, my husband and I decided to talk to the authorities. For several hours my husband and I were interrogated by the FBI. We gave sworn statement after sworn statement. We wrote down every detail of our account. The interrogators seemed especially interested in the McDonald's bag, so we repeated in detail what we knew about the McDonald's bag. A law enforcement official stood near us, holding 14 Syrian passports in his hand. We answered more questions. And finally we went home.