A friend of ours boarded a plane recently in a European city to fly home to New York. The seat beside her was empty. Not long after takeoff she fell asleep, after all other passengers in the row of seats in front of her and in back were already asleep.
Suddenly she was awakened in the middle of the night; flight attendants were putting into the seat next to our friend a woman concealed from head to foot in a chadrah. To our friend's astonishment, the woman was stretched out in the chair, which had been reclined as far as it would go, and the flight attendants were giving her oxygen. Standing behind the woman and gripping her hand was a man dressed in the full regalia of an Afghan – a turban, flowing robes, a wide belt, baggy pants, and wearing a long black beard.
“My God,” thought our friend, “that man's the perfect image of a terrorist.”
She reached over and grabbed the sleeve of a flight attendant. “Who's that?” she asked, whispering.
“The woman is traveling in back with a group of children” the attendant whispered back, “and she fell ill.”
“Who's that with her?”
“That's her son.”
Our friend looked closely at the man. Then she studied the woman lying beside her. “They're each about thirty years old,” she told herself. “So the man isn't her son at all, but someone else.”