Black Performer: Israeli Security Made Me Dance

By: AP
By: AP

JERUSALEM - A performer with the renowned Alvin Ailey dance troupe was ordered to perform steps for Israeli airport security officers to convince them of his identity, a spokesman for the company said Tuesday.

Abdur-Rahim Jackson was singled out from other members of the black American dance ensemble when they arrived at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Sunday night at the start of a six-nation international tour, said publicist Shauli Baskin.

"They stopped him ... as he has a Muslim name," Baskin told The Associated Press. "He told them he was a dancer and was here to dance with the Alvin Ailey dance troupe and they told him, 'So dance.'"

Jackson could not be reached directly on Tuesday, hours before the first of six scheduled performances in Tel Aviv by the New York-based ensemble. But the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, which first reported the story, quoted him as saying that his father had been a convert to Islam and subsequently gave him a Muslim name.

"I demonstrated a few dance steps and after another round of questioning they let me go and join the rest of the group," he told the paper.

Baskin said that waiting for him in the group was Jackson's fiancee and fellow Alvin Ailey dancer Olivia Bowman, who has a Jewish mother with family in Israel.

Baskin said that Jackson did not lodge a complaint with airport officials, and the Israel Airports Authority said it had no record of the alleged incident.

Israel is constantly on the alert for attack because of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and extremist Islamic rejection of the Jewish state's existence. A key element in its security checks is ethnic profiling, criticized by Israeli human rights campaigners as racist because it singles out Arabs for tougher treatment.

Yediot quoted Jackson as saying that the only place he has had a similarly humiliating experience in the past was at a U.S. airport.

"Once, when I returned to the United States after a vacation in the Dominican Republic, the security people put me through a similar investigation and they also asked me to dance," he told Yediot. "Maybe I should get used to dancing at airports."


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