A few months ago, I wrote a post about flying while Muslim and the case of the six imams who were removed from their flight because they prayed before boarding. Now this story has even more relevance since the Christmas day attempted bombing by Umar Farooq Abdulmutallab.
This incident has led to much discussion about how to increase security, much of it revolving around profiling. For many Muslims, to single them out would be a violation of their rights. For proponents of profiling, the majority of terrorist attacks have been done by Muslims and thus this is the only way to prevent future attacks. There has already been a move to towards this policy with President Obama’s decision to mandate extra security for anyone flying to the United States from any one of 14 countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen, Iran, Sudan, Syria, and Cuba.
Many have been critical of this decision for a number of reasons. First, opponents argue that this will be ineffective because terrorist organizations will simply find people who do not fit a particular profile. Second, opponents of this decision highlight that it will give fodder to Al-Qaeda’s narrative that the West is against Muslims and Islam since most of the countries on the list are majority Muslim. Moreover, this mandate will end up affecting any Muslim who needs to perform the hajj in Saudi Arabia. Finally, this mandate violates the rights of Muslim Americans since it in effect singles them out based on religion.
Muslim organizations, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, have argued that profiling based on race and religion is not the solution; rather, the focus should be on behavior. So, in the case of Abdulmutallab, the fact that his father alerted authorities, that he bought a one-way ticket and had no luggage for a two-week trip should have been a reason to pull him aside for extra screening.
For me the push for profiling misses the fact that violence is perpetrated by all different kinds of people–remember Timothy McVeigh— and the vast majority of Muslims do not condone these actions and are just as affected–if not more so. When they get on airplane, they are just like everyone else.
What do you think about profiling at airports? Is it effective or not? Why? What do you think about the mandate? Should civil rights be more important or safety? Please share your comments below.