Delta Air Lines Marketing Alliance with Saudi Arabian Airlines Fuels New Shariah Hysteria

From USA Today:

Some travel industry experts say Delta Air Lines is being treated unfairly — and is the victim of misinformation — because of its pending marketing alliance with Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Delta was criticized by some Jewish and Christian leaders Thursday after a Religion News Service story hit the Internet questioning the two airlines’ partnership because Saudi Arabia, like some other Mideast countries, has some restrictive visa and entry policies.

…Delta doesn’t fly into Saudi Arabia, but critics expressed concern that its SkyTeam marketing alliance with Saudi Arabian Airlines — which flies between the USA and Saudi Arabia — would develop into a code-share agreement. That would enable each airline to sell one another’s tickets.

…”Delta does not intend to code share or share reciprocal benefits, such as frequent flier benefits, with Saudi Arabian Airlines,” said Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter.

According to the Religion News Service report (which has since been pulled):

U.S. Jews not able to fly on Delta flights to Saudi Arabia

JERUSALEM (RNS) Jews and Israelis, or passengers carrying any non-Islamic article of faith, will not be able to fly code-share flights from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia under Delta Air Line’s new partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines that is set to begin in 2012.

…Saudi Arabia bans anyone with an Israeli stamp in their passport from entering the country, even in transit. Many Jews believe the kingdom has also withheld visas from travelers with Jewish-sounding names.

Religious items such as Bibles that are not related to Islam may be confiscated at the airport.

Colby M. May, senior counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative legal group founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, said his office is trying to determine if the agreement runs afoul of U.S. law…

The story was also whipped up into a ludicrous hysteria by WorldNetDaily, via help from actor-turned-politician-turned talk-show host Fred Grandy:

…The issue first was presented to Congress, the public and others by talk radio host and former U.S. Rep. Fred Grandy,whose own battle against discrimination was documented when his former radio station demanded he tone down criticism of Islam on his program. He then left the station.

Grandy and “Mrs. Fred,” – Catherine – recently were interviewed by Talk 1200 show host Jeff Katz about the controversy, which was described as “outrageous.”

“Creeping Shariah? Now [it is] jetspeed Shariah. Hat’s off to Delta. It looks like Delta will be the first Shariah-compliant airline in the United States,” Catherine Grandy said.

Katz noted, “As a Jewish man, I might not be able to fly on Delta Air Lines in the future.”

…”This creeping Shariah, economic jihad, gets you everywhere you turn,” Catherine Grandy said. “This is just not right. I’m sure this will be tested.”

…Already, in the United Kingdom, Shariah courts are given authority to resolve certain issues outside of ordinary judicial proceedings. Islamic law, as it is practiced in many Muslim countries, includes penalties such as the chopping off a hand for thievery and execution for adultery and abandoning Islam.

Yes, one minute Delta Airlines has a marketing alliance with Saudi Arabian Airlines; the next people in the USA will be being stoned to death for adultery. There’s a lot to be said for keeping  critical pressure on companies doing business with repressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia, but this kind of hyperbole is self-defeating (I recently blogged on the UK situation – which the above also misrepresents – here).

The claim that Saudi Arabia bans Jews derives from material posted on the official website of the Saudi Supreme Commission for Tourism in February 2004. The Jewish Virtual Library has more:

…The site says the policy of the Saudi Arabian government is to deny visas to “Jewish People.” After this anti-Semitic language was discovered and publicized by the media and Congressman Anthony Weiner, the Saudi government removed the offensive language claiming that it was a “mistake.” Rep. Weiner noted that the Saudi record of anti-Semitism suggests otherwise and subsequently sponsored a bill that would control the distribution of visas to Saudi citizens until the President certifies that the Saudis do not discriminate on the basis of religious affiliation or heritage when issuing visas.

According to the USA Today report:

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, says he’s known a lot of Jewish-American business men with Jewish-sounding names who were provided visas to enter Saudi Arabia and were not “harassed” during their stay.

“But I think the far more significant problem is that, according to the State Department, no religious practices other than Islam are allowed to be practiced openly in Saudi Arabia,” he says...

But while the Religious News Service has pulled the story, WorldNetDaily and its allies smell blood:

…Larry Klayman, founder of the government watchdog Judicial Watch and now of Freedom Watch USA,was succinct.

“I, for one, will sue Delta Air Lines,” he told WND. “This is outrageous, repugnant and illegal.”

He said Delta has joined President Obama in “kowtowing” to “nefarious Muslims.”

His reference was to the famous image of Barack Obama greeting the Saudi king with a bow.

In contrast to George W. Bush, who in 2006 wrote to King Abdullah appealing for Saudi Arabian Airlines to buy 43 Boeing jets.

(H/T Get Religion)