Not long after the foiled London plane bombing this past August, 12 Indian men were arrested and detained by Dutch authorities following a security alert on Northwestern Airlines from Amsterdam to Mumbai. All of them Muslim, the men aroused suspicion because some werent wearing seatbelts and they were passing around a cellular phone. After an intensive interrogation, the men were cleared of any worngdoing and returned to India, where their families say they were victims of racial discrimination. "These are times of suspicion and distrust, and we Muslims have to bear the brunt," said the father of one of the arrested in an Aug. 25 Reuters article.
According to an Aug. 24 Reuters article, twin sisters Arwa and Sumia Ibrahim and their mother were held at JFK on Aug. 15 with 200 other people after returning from a holiday in Jordan. According to the twins, of the 200 people that were held by the United States Customs and Border Protection, about 98 were Arab, South Asian or Muslim. The whole experience made them to feel degraded and humiliated, they said.
These cases of racial profiling may become more commonplace. On Aug 15, conservative radio host Mike Gallagher suggested a Muslim-only line for the airports. And hes not the only one to think so. A national poll conducted on Aug. 29 by researchers at the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in Connecticut reported that 60 percent of those polled believed authorities should single out people who look "Middle Eastern" for security screening at locations such as airports and train stations. Such actions would be a haunting echo of World War II when all Japanese and Japanese Americans were all uniformly regarded being the enemy.
Of course, some Muslims still can go through airport security with ease. After facing repeated airport security interrogations in the past, Dailyah Patt, a white Muslim convert, now removes her headscarf when she goes to the airport, according to a Sept. 3 artcile in The San Francisco Chronicle. Apparently, not displaying religion and culture proudly is the price Muslims must pay for the hassle - free travel.
Of course, officials should search those who arouse suspicion, but to only search members of one religious or ethnic group is ineffective, humiliating and unethical. While it is true that Muslims and those of Middle Eastern descent have been responsible for terrorist attacks, so have white Americans like Timothy McVeigh of the Oklahoma City bombings.
And to imagine that terrorists will all look Muslim is perhaps naïve. According to the Sept. 11 issue of The New Yorker, a former Al Qaeda member who is now Americas top Al Qaeda source said that that operatives were taught to disguise their appearances by shaving their beards, carrying cigarettes, wearing cologne and trying to appear more western.
Another problem with racial profiling is that the actual policy is hazy. Three different screening officers who answered the phone on Sept. 14 at the Customs and Border Protection office at the San Francisco airport declined to go on the record about the airports official policy.
After World War II, most of the nation agreed that the treatment Japanese Americans received was wrong. All Muslims are no more the enemy now than all Japanese Americans were then.
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