Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ailey Member 'Made To Dance' for Israeli Security

How does one prove they aren’t a terrorist? Dance.

At least that’s what Abdur-Rahim Jackson, renowned dancer with Alvin Ailey, had to do to convince Israeli airport security in Tel Aviv that he wasn’t planning jihad. Jackson, 31, was detained on Sunday at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv because officials were suspicious of his first Muslin name. He says he was grilled about his name and asked twice to dance before being allowed to enter the country. Jackson, a graduate of Julliard and an eight-year veteran of the elite 30-member multicultural dance ensemble, said airport security guards separated him from the group as soon as they touched down in Tel Aviv.

"It was really an embarrassing and unpleasant position to be in," Jackson said Tuesday. "To be greeted like this because of my name, it took me back a little bit…We passed the security check, and then I was approached and asked to step aside.” He said he was escorted to a separate waiting area where security guards questioned him for an hour about his first name.

"I explained to them that my father converted to Islam and gave me this name...They repeatedly asked me what my father's name is, what my mother's name is and why they gave me this name."

Attempting to prove he is a professional dancer, Jackson handed them an Alvin Ailey brochure featuring photos of him performing. "They saw the pictures and then one of them asked me to dance for him," Jackson said. "I was embarrassed, but I was afraid to do something wrong that may cause me to look suspicious."

Minutes after dancing for one security guard, Jackson was requested to repeat the impromptu performance for a female security guard. "I demonstrated a few dance moves and after another clarification of the details, they released me and allowed me to join the rest of the troupe," Jackson said.

He said he did not file a complaint, explaining, "We're only here to bring positive light to our lives and the people here."

Security officials at Ben-Gurion airport refused to issue an apology. TheIsrael Airports Authority said, "The details of the incident are unknown to us, and no corroboration was found in the investigation we conducted."

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