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Perceptible racism when crossing borders for travel reasons - random double checks or a clear case of race discrimination?

Written by: Pasqua, Alessia

University: Lincoln

In the past 9/11 world, especially Muslim backgrounded people are influenced by racism during their travels. Therefore, the discussion paper considers how stereotypes of Muslim backgrounded people trigger disengagement of this ethnical group from "tourism experiences". Particularly borders got tighter since then and also the passport treatment of people from Muslim countries like Turkey and Arabia changed. Since then, a so called "islamophobia" has arisen and followers of this faith have to face massive racism. Thus attention is driven towards their experiences during their travels when getting confronted with the "white gaze". Through primary research, it became obvious that their travel behaviour is correlated to their fear of racism. To sum up, the paper wants to give an understanding of how race relations are replicated within tourism environments.

Past 9/11 world, Border controls, ethnical minorities, racism in tourism

There exists an interaction between tourism participation and race. Taking part in tourism activities is controlled by the reaction of others. Even if it is an individual's right to take part in tourism activities, some ethnic minorities are still confronted with discrimination and race prejudice and therefore inhibited in partaking in tourism. It is obvious that race relations are reproduced within tourism environments (Stephenson and Hughes, 2005).
Especially in the post 9/11 world global tourism and consumer travel choices are effected by tighter border controls and increasing security, especially when concentrating on Muslims (Torabian and Miller, 2017). The following conference paper will therefore just concentrate on how they get treated when traveling.

"Racism" is defined as a progress in which groups stereotype and classify those whom they feel are inferior. In some cases racism goes beyond biological determinism that is why it is also called "racialism" because this term is related with the intolerance of others (Stephenson & Hughes, 2005).
Since 9/11 especially Muslims have to face discrimination because the terror attack triggered a massive islamophobia (Torabian and Miller, 2017). From this time on, the "fear of other" has been intensified in which members of Muslim communities are seen as the "others" of whom the western world should be afraid of. That is why, especially Muslims have to deal with aversion when traveling (Torabian and Miller, 2017).
What is more, since then they have to face unfair passport treatments like increased security checks or even entry bans. Thus their freedom of movement is overshadowed (Torabian and Miller, 2017).
Since the terror attack nations like the US tightened their borders which was especially shifted towards terrorism and therefore against people from Arab and Muslim communities. That triggered insulting behaviour towards them when passing security checks and crossing borders just for being labelled as a "Terrorist" (Torabian and Miller, 2017).

Despite the understanding that racism influences tourism, only a few researches have questioned race within their work. What is more, when concentrating on the past 9/11 world, the discrimination of Muslims gained in weight but academic literature regarding this fact is difficult to find (Torabian and Miller, 2017). That is why, the paper also included primary research about the personal feelings and fear when traveling of this ethnical community, to unpack the racialized experiences of them when crossing borders.
The paper used the inductive approach to substantiate individual statements to the general, therefore two interviews with people with a Muslim background were conducted. Both interviewees were male, students and grew up and live in Germany but still have a Turkish passport. The questions of the interview were all aimed at finding out how they feel when traveling, if they get racially discriminated and whether they have drawn any consequences for themselves regarding traveling. Of course, because it is an emotional topic, ethnical issues were taken seriously and personal data is certainly protected. All in all, the interviews should explore their subjective experiences when traveling to link back to the 9/11 context.

Three noticeable themes occurred from the interviews. They were: (1) race-related travel choices, (2) racial discrimination during travel and (3) fear of racism.
Regarding topic 1, both stated that they are unwilling to travel for example to the US because of their racist president and always pick destinations where they are able to travel without getting racially discriminated.
To topic 2, both answered that they get labelled as a terrorist just because of their passport and get always double or triple checked when crossing borders as well as have to face discrimination.
Both respond to topic 3 that they are almost afraid to travel sometimes because of the islamophobia they are confronted with. Especially the border control is always the hardest step when traveling, still they will not completely stop traveling just reduce their travel frequency and choose destinations which are more welcoming to foreigners.

It is unacceptable these days after all the dark history we had with racism (Lee and Scott, 2017) that minorities still have to face discrimination.
It became obvious that the context of 9/11 and the resulting phobia of the Islam changed the treatment of passports and tightened borders for the Muslim society. Both interviewees also mentioned that they cannot enjoy the benefits of tourism without getting stereotyped as a terrorist. As a consequence they already reduced their travel frequency and are afraid to travel to particular destinations. Therefore, the issue about people getting stereotyped because of their appearance or their passport/ citizenship needs to be eliminated.


Lee, K.J. and Scott, D. (2017), Racial Discrimination and African Americans' Travel Behavior: The Utility of Habitus and Vignette Technique, Journal of travel research, 56 (3) 382-392.

Stephenson, M.L. and Hughes, H.L. (2005), Racialised boundaries in tourism and travel: a case study of the UK black Caribbean community, Leisure Studies, 24:2, pp. 137- 160.

Torabian, P. and Miller, M.C. (2017), Freedom of movement for all? Unpacking racialized travel experiences, Current Issues in Tourism, 20:9, pp. 931-945.