Bassam Khalaf was paid to help keep U.S. air travel safe as a baggage screener. His alter ego, the “Arabic Assassin,” rapped about flying a plane into a building.
The Transportation Security Administration could not reconcile the two and fired him last week, saying his free speech rights as an aspiring rap singer did not extend to a right to check luggage at Houston Intercontinental Airport.
“I was one of the ones screening the bags thoroughly,” Khalaf said Friday. “I wouldn’t let a bomb get on a plane.”
He also was the self-proclaimed Arabic Assassin, who didn’t do songs about love but preferred to sing about killing, raping and blowing things up.
From one of his songs: “My name is Bassam, a one-man band, I came from sand, affiliated with the Taliban.”
Rapper says he wanted attention
Khalaf, a Houston native of Palestinian descent, said the incendiary lyrics about rape, murder and mass attacks were meant only to get attention and help get his first album, ”Terror Alert,” a distribution deal.
Instead, the TSA fired Khalaf, 21, after six months on the job and gave his name to other federal agencies for investigation, spokeswoman Andrea McCauley said.
“There is a certain level of integrity employees are asked to maintain,” she said. “He’s been tasked with protecting the very people he’s talking about harming.”
“We wonder what the public would think if we didn’t fire him,” she said.
No bites from record distributors
Khalaf believes his Arab-American ethnicity played a role in the firing, but McCauley said that was not true.
Khalaf said publicity about his controversial rapping had brought lots of phone calls from both admirers and detractors, but none from record distributors.
He also admitted to being a little worried about his future employment possibilities now that word is out about his music.
“I better make it (as a rapper) now because there ain’t no turning back,” he said.