Agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection valiantly averted a potential threat last week to the Nation’s environment — as well as citizens’ possible overexposure to aesthetics — by destroying 13 rare flutes that, being made of wood and all, ostensibly posed a threat of introducing “exotic plant pathogens” into the ecosystem.
The flutes, hand-made and owned by virtuoso Canadian musician Boujemaa Razgui, are rare instruments that Razgui has traveled with and played throughout his career. They’ve seen action throughout the U.S. and in Europe, where Razgui has played the instruments with professional ensembles and individually at colleges, churches, synagogues, mosques, theaters and weddings. Based in New York, he holds a green card and is legally self-employed as a musician in the United States.
Now the flutes have seen their last action at JFK International Airport, where Customs officials discovered the instruments and, without Razgui being present or consulted about their purpose, smashed them to pieces after mistaking them for bamboo sticks.
“I fly with them in and out all the time and this is the first time there has been a problem. This is my life,” Razgui told the Boston Globe. He discovered the instruments were missing after receiving his intercepted luggage, and consulted with airport officials. “They told me they were destroyed. Nobody talked to me. They said I have to write a letter to the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. This is horrible. I don’t know what to do.”
Customs has defended the agents’ actions and says they simply acted according to prescribed protocol — even though protocol authorizes the destruction of “green,” undried wood materials, even though the instruments were made of dried wood. Customs is dubiously claiming that the instruments were indeed made of undried wood — no, wait; that indeed they only saw green bamboo sticks and no instruments — and that their destruction was justified.
Of course, that’s news to Razgui, who’s flown into and out of the U.S. with the instruments for years without incident, and who maintains that Customs didn’t wait for an explanation of what they were looking at before acting hastily.
At any rate, history is on his side. Remember when the Feds swooped in and raided Gibson Guitar Corporation’s Tennessee facilities in 2009 and again in 2011? They were looking for — and allegedly found — “endangered” wood. As The Blaze pointed out last May, however, the raids may have been politically motivated. And Gibson appears to have been singled out, since their exotic-wood-using competitors have never been targeted for breaking environmental law.