Muslim objections to new flight security measures
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is objecting to new measures announced by the Transportation Security Administration over the weekend that focus on flights from 13 Muslim-majority countries.
The move follows the attempt by a Muslim from Nigeria to blow up an airliner from Amsterdam as it landed in Detroit on Christmas Day.
The 14 nations on the list include four designated by the State Department as state sponsors of terrorism – Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria – and 10 additional “countries of interest:” Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen. Travelers from these countries will face automatic pat-downs and baggage searches before they are allowed to board a flight to the United States.
In a release on Monday, CAIR said the list discriminates unfairly against Muslims.
“Under these new guidelines, almost every American Muslim who travels to see family or friends or goes on pilgrimage to Mecca will automatically be singled out for special security checks -– that’s profiling,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement. “While singling out travelers based on religion and national origin may make some people feel safer, it only serves to alienate and stigmatize Muslims and does nothing to improve airline security.”
“We all support effective security measures that will protect the travelling public from an attack such as that attempted on Christmas Day. But knee-jerk policies will not address this serious challenge to public safety.”
Awad suggested alternatives to what CAIR called “faith-based security checks:"
“First look at behavior, not at faith or skin color," he said. "Then spend what it takes to obtain more bomb-sniffing dogs, to install more sophisticated bomb-detection equipment and to train security personnel in identifying the behavior of real terror suspects.”
It’s wrong to single out whole groups of people based on some arbitrary characteristic. For instance, just because a majority of terror suspects arrested or killed by U.S. officials since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were Muslim males, it does not logically follow that all or most Muslim males are terrorists.
But aside from the moral objections, as we’ve seen, profiling by characteristic isn’t very efficient. The minute U.S. officials put out the word that they’re not scrutinizing people with blond hair and blue eyes is the minute that al-Qaida starts recruiting people with blond hair and blue eyes. Would looking for Arab-Americans have turned up a passenger that resembled “American Taliban” fighter John Walker Lindh? Would applying extra scrutiny to people with foreign-sounding names have kept would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid off a plane?
Of course not. We’d prefer a counterterrorism policy that is more benign and yet arguably more effective – profiling passengers based on behavior. That used to be called being vigilant, and adding up clues when suspicions were raised about particular individuals because of what they do and not how they look or what religion they practice.