Daniel Pipes ( www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle
East Forum and author of Miniatures: Views of Islamic and Middle
Eastern Politics (Transaction Publishers, 2003).
Should voting be encouraged
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH refers to the enemy in the war on terror as “Islamic radicals.” Official U.S. policy sees the country at war with
those Muslims who support an extremist, jihadist, misogynist, antiChristian, anti-Semitic, totalitarian form of Islam.
Yet, whatever the president says at the loftiest levels of policy making,
the traveler boarding an airplane in the United States encounters something quite different: an
insistence that everyone is equally suspect. Department of Transportation guidelines, for example, forbid security personnel from relying on “generalized stereotypes or attitudes or beliefs
about the propensity of members of any racial, ethnic, religious or national origin group to
engage in unlawful activity.”
Fortunately, some movement away from this rigid approach has taken place. In late 2003,
the Transportation Security Administration introduced a passenger profiling system known as
Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques. It now operates in 12 U.S. airports and uses
behavioral pattern recognition to focus on extremely high levels of stress, fear and deception.
This marks a step in the right direction, but well-trained terrorists reveal neither stress nor
fear, implying the need for a deeper probe. Toward this end, some analysts, such as Michael A.
Smerconish in his 2004 book, Flying Blind: How Political Correctness Continues to Compromise
Airline Safety Post 9/11, propose that counterterrorism measures focus on race and ethnicity,
and specifically on “young Arab male extremists.”
Focusing on observable characteristics such as Arabic names or a Middle Eastern appearance is easily done. But, like nervousness, these are crude criteria that do not get to the heart of
the problem. Also, looking exclusively for young Arab males will inevitably spur terrorists to
rely on older, female, non-Arab operatives.
Instead, law enforcement must focus on the motivations behind violent acts. Radical Islam
inspires Islamist terrorism. As all terrorist jihadists are Muslim, using intelligence to focus on
the 1 percent of the American population that is Muslim is both logical and inevitable. C
Opinions expressed are those of the
individuals or organizations represented
and are presented to foster discussion.
Costco and The Costco Connection
take no position on any Debate topic.
from experts in the field:
RACIAL, ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS profiling is an ineffective and discriminatory practice that actually makes us less safe. This type of profiling
(collectively called racial profiling) is unreliable, because instead of looking at criminal behavior, officials target individuals and groups based on
factors that have nothing to do with whether someone has committed a
crime, such as the color of a person’s skin. Racial profiling has never been
effective and only serves to devastate innocent people and entire communities.
In a yearlong study of racial profiling, detailed in its report Threat and Humiliation,
Amnesty International held public hearings across the country and heard from law-enforcement
officials, profiling victims, human-rights advocates and experts on various aspects of profiling.
Time and again, testimony pointed to one conclusion: Racial profiling does not work and, in
fact, is counterproductive. A Muslim man told us about the humiliation of being stopped by
police officers who asked if he had any bombs or dead bodies in his vehicle. A Muslim physician
told of how law-enforcement officers advised her not to bring any Arabic books to the airport.
These testimonies reveal how racial profiling turns someone’s skin color, heritage, language,
ethnicity or religion into a crime. The resulting humiliation that profiled victims and their families suffer creates suspicion and fear of law-enforcement officials. Effective police work depends
on citizen cooperation. Because of profiling, entire communities avoid law enforcement at all
costs, making investigations more difficult.
One out of every five people in the world is Muslim. Islam’s 1. 5 billion largely peaceful
adherents come in all races and ethnicities. Law-enforcement resources are limited, and casting
an enormous net that captures an entire religion and scores of ethnicities will never work.
Profiling is not only too time consuming, but if terrorists know that a certain profile is
stopped at airports, they will simply engage individuals who do not fit the profile. While the
Transportation Security Administration is busy searching the woman wearing the headscarf or
the man with a long beard, their attention will be diverted from the Timothy McVeigh–type
individual who truly intends harm. Profiling is contrary to all human-rights principles, morality,
good police practice and, most of all, common sense. C
Rebecca Clayborne Hershey is an adviser for Amnesty
International’s USA Program ( www.amnestyusa.org).