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Fired Christian Arab airport baggage screener who called himself Arabic Assassin wrote songs about flying planes into buildings says 'music has nothing to do with his job'

September 16, 2005

MIM: Next comes the recording contract and a discrimination lawsuit filed by CAIR.

July 18, 2005, 10:39AM

Rapper who applauded 9/11 loses airport gig

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle


When Bassam Khalaf raps, he calls himself the Arabic Assassin.

On the Web: Khalaf's music Web site.
NOTE: This site contains obscene material

A Houston-based rapper said his decision to call himself the "Arabic Assassin" was meant to stir up a bit of controversy in the music business.

The stage persona along with some incendiary lyrics in one of his songs also helped get Bassam Khalaf fired this month from his job as a baggage screener at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

"I thought it was kind of ridiculous. What does my music have to do with my job?" Khalaf said Thursday.

He lost his job July 7, about six months after he joined the Transportation Security Administration as a baggage screener.

"He was fired because of threatening language that undermines the public's trust in the agency," said Andrea McCauley, spokeswoman for the TSA's regional office in Dallas.

According to the termination letter Khalaf received, his songs "applaud the efforts of the terrorists on September 11th, encourage and warn of future acts of terrorism by you, discuss at length and in grave and alarming detail various criminal acts you intend to commit, state your belief that the U.S. government should be overthrown, and finally warn that others will die on September 11, 2005," The Associated Press reported.

The lyrics on a Web site featuring music from his CD Terror Alert contain offensive language and talk about anarchy, harming children and blowing up airplanes, McCauley said.

"We looked over (the Web site) ourselves and, certainly, we were very concerned," she said.

"When you're charged with protecting the American people and you discuss how you will do harm to them, then it behooves us to terminate your employment," she said.

Khalaf doesn't deny that the material can be considered somewhat shocking but said it is an artistic statement and doesn't mean he supports or condones terrorism.

The lyrics on one song, Bringing the Pain, include references to flying a plane into a building on Sept. 11, 2005.

"It's just entertainment. I'm no different than Eminem," Khalaf said, referring to the popular but controversial rapper.

Khalaf, 21, said he told a couple of people at the airport about his interest in rap music but said he always acted professionally as a baggage screener.

"It was the best job I ever had," he said. "Even the guy who fired me said I was a good employee."

Khalaf said some of the other employees at the airport likely found out about his rap-oriented Web site and reported him to the authorities.

"I know somebody up there snitched on me," he said. "A lot of people up there are jealous of me."

Khalaf said he believes his Arab-American heritage had something to do with his job problems at the airport.

"I know part of it is racially motivated," he said.

TSA officials, however, flatly deny that race played any part in his termination.

"We hire people of various ethnicities at all times," McCauley said.

Khalaf, who describes himself as a Christian, was born in Houston and is of Palestinian descent. His family moved to the United States about 40 years ago.

He didn't want to join the military but said he applied for the TSA baggage screener position to do his part in the war against terrorism.

"I don't support any terrorism anywhere," he said. "It's not cool for anybody."

Khalaf believes the publicity from his termination may actually help in his plans to get a recording contract.

"Last week, I was a nobody," he said. "Now, everybody wants to talk to me."

Chronicle reporter Renee C. Lee contributed to this story.

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