So there you are, stuffing your feet into what is laughably called “leg room” by the airline industry, and getting ready to eat the $9 sandwich you bought in the terminal because the “Friendly Skies” are now also food free — and then you spot it.

The passenger across the aisle is fiddling with some odd-looking electronic device. It’s not necessarily threatening, but it’s certainly out of place.

You look at the passenger. It’s a guy. In his 20’s. And, by all appearances, Middle Eastern. He sees you looking at him, and he quickly stuffs the whateveritis in his bag and shoves it under the seat.

It’s probably nothing, you tell yourself. No reason to get freaked out, you say. But then you think, “Why not tell someone — a flight attendant, a TSA agent, somebody? If there’s nothing up, surely the guy — particularly a Middle Eastern guy — will understand, right? He’ll probably say, “Better safe than sorry, no harm no foul.”

So you decided to do the right thing. You speak out. You do your part for public safety.

You know what they call you now? “Defendant.”

That’s what happened to the proactive passengers on the US Airways “angry imams” flight. Remember that story? Six imams at a Minneapolis airport terminal break out in loud, demonstrative prayers just before boarding a flight. According to media reports, witnesses said the men were also “criticizing the war in Iraq and President Bush, and talking about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.”

Their fellow passengers noted the behavior, and several mentioned it to the flight crew. Tensions continued to grow when all six imams boarded with the first-class passengers, even though only one had a first-class ticket. Three had one-way tickets and just one had checked a bag. The imam in first class then asked for a seat-belt extender (a long strap with a heavy metal buckle at one end) despite the fact that he was too thin to need one.

The airlines took all these things into account and removed the imams from the flight, much to the relief of their fellow passengers — including at least one who spoke Arabic.

The imams then invoked that one word sacred to devotees of all the world’s great religions: “Lawsuit.” They filed discrimination and defamation lawsuits in federal court, but not just US Airways and the airport. They’re also targeting the “passengers … who contacted US Airways to report the alleged ‘suspicious’ behavior of [the imams],” according to the text of the lawsuit.

One of the targets is an elderly couple described in the lawsuit this way: “…an older couple was sitting behind them and purposely turning around to watch the [imams] as they prayed together … Defendant John Doe [the husband] moved to a corner near Gate C9. While observing the plaintiffs discreetly, he kept talking into his cellular phone.”

“John Doe” is the lawsuits name for the as-of-yet unknown passenger, the dangerous bigot who assaulted the angry imams’ civil rights by noticing them, by looking at them, perhaps even (horrors!) talking about them.

The plaintiff attorneys want to know the “true names, capacities, and circumstances” of the John and Jane Does who reacted to the suspicious and out-of-place behavior of the imams, in order to determine their “liability.” The best-case scenario for these concerned fliers is getting stuck for the legal fees of fighting a ginned-up lawsuit. Worst case scenario? Granny and Gramps are selling the family home to pay off some opportunistic Islamists.

In the end, the passengers who spoke up are going to get slapped down, one way or the other. And next time, the “John Doe” could be you.

But will it be? Or is this lawsuit designed to deliver the Islamists’ “Stop Snitchin'” message to Average Joe Americans by raising the stakes for speaking out?

As columnist Katherine Kersten observed, “By piggy-backing on our civil rights laws, Islamist activists aim to equate airport security with racial bigotry…. Intimidation is a crucial tool.”

And it’s a tool that’s likely to work well on an American populace so cowed by P.C. guilt that, this year, even Fox’s 24 is downplaying the Islamist threat.

If you’re thinking “Michael, don’t worry. Our outstanding airport security professionals will do the difficult work of screening higher-risk passengers,” you might want to check in with Nancy Pelosi. She’s a co-sponsor of the “End Racial Profiling Act” which makes it a crime for airport security from disproportionately questioning Muslim and/or Middle Eastern passengers.

Sadly, it does nothing about the fact that the terrorists who want to blow us up are disproportionately Muslim and Middle Eastern.

Oops. I promised my attorney I wouldn’t notice that.

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