Abdur-Rahim Jackson is one of the company’s senior dancers but that detail didn’t seem to faze Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport security.
They noticed Jackson’s Muslim first name and that became reason enough to turn him into a suspect.
Jackson, 31, arrived in Israel on Sunday night with the rest of the Alvin Ailey dancers towards a performance they are launching on Tuesday night at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center.
“We passed the security check and then I was approached and asked to step aside,” Jackson recalled.
“They told me that someone would come pick me up, and security guards really did come and pick me up to take me to a separate waiting area.”
When security arrived they mostly took interest in Jackson’s first name, Abudur-Rahim. “I explained to them that my father converted to Islam and gave me this name,” he said.
“They repeatedly asked me what my father’s name is, what my mother’s name is and why they gave me this name.”
'Embarrassing position to be in'
In an attempt to prove to the security guards that he is a professional dancer who arrived in Israel to perform, he presented them with a company brochure in which he is photographed in various performances, but to no avail.
“They saw the pictures and then one of them asked me to dance for him, Jackson said recalling the humiliation.
“I was embarrassed but I was afraid to do something wrong that may cause me to look suspicious.
“Anyway, I was not worried because I knew that I didn’t do anything wrong. I demonstrated a few dance moves and after another clarification of the details, they released me and allowed me to join the rest of the troupe.”
Jackson, who arrived in Israel for the first time, was detained for an hour. “I am used to all types of treatment all around the world,” he explained on Monday.
“I travel all around the world with the company and I have experience with these things. I also know what my rights are and I am not worried because I know that I can turn to the American Embassy, anywhere.
“It was really an embarrassing and unpleasant position to be in, but it has already happened to me in the past. When I returned to the United States after a trip to the Dominican Republic; security guards interrogated me similarly, and they also asked me to dance. Maybe I need to get used to dancing at airports.”
The Israel Airports Authority said in response, “the details of the incident are unknown to us and no corroboration was found in the investigation we conducted.”