A TSA “Traveler Information” advisory, posted on its website, thoughtfully purports to tell flyers what to expect when they encounter “persons of the Muslim faith … observing Ramadan,” which begins in a few days. The TSA “would … like to inform the traveling public that they may notice passengers who are observing Ramadan engaging in the following activities at the airports.” They may be fasting, “going through ablution … in airport restrooms,” and “engag[ing] in prayer … on airplanes.” Our Muslim neighbors may also be engaging in other “religious practices and meditations,” or “orally reciting the Holy Qur’an.” Meaning audibly.
You read that last one right. The Muslim scriptures — what we thought we knew as the “Koran,” with no further encomiums — are now matter-of-factly denominated, as the TSA feels they should be, as capital-H “Holy.” That’s not a bit tendentious, given that a certain CEO I know of finds the sunset muezzin’s call the most beautiful sound on earth. And, the TSA’s chosen transliteration of the title of the Islamic scriptures — with that tricky “Qur’an” — is intended to be more … you know … authentic. And definitely not to be gratuitously exotic, inscrutable, or so phonetically baffling as to back you up, put you off, or make you show some respect due a culture you haven’t taken the trouble to understand. Why would you think that? We should all want to know how to say it the right way after all this time. Of course, no such uppercase deference is devoted to other religions. That’s because there is no need for mention on the TSA site of “Torah,” or “Bible,” or, for that matter, for “Jew” or “Christian” (aside, re: the latter, from some dead links and a few irrelevant hits on pages with someone of that given name). Those folks pray at their own risk.