Is Racial Profiling Justifiable?
Muslim cleric Aslam Abdullah was in Las Vegas to deliver a sermon on post-9/11 racial tolerance and was rushing back to Ontario for an afternoon meeting. He was just made his way to the back of the full plane and buckled himself into the only remaining seat when he was summoned. ‘All of a sudden my name was announced twice on the PA,’ Abdullah recalled. ‘Please come to the front.’ As Abdullah walked up the aisle, the plane was silent. He felt eyes upon him, taking in his business suit, full beard, brown skin, and Muslim name. ‘I was trying to erase those looks,’ he said. ‘I was embarrassed and humiliated.’ (Catania)
Would you feel the same as Abdullah if you were him? Since the 911 incident, Arabs have been the target group of security agencies, who single them out for inspection at public transport such as the airport and the subway. When asked if this action is racial profiling, all these agencies can say in justification is that all the nineteen September 11th hijackers were Arabs and that the suspicion is for the public’s safety. The phrase “social profiling” has been bombarding us day and night, but what is it actually? The Wikipedia Encyclopedia gives a concise explanation: The use of race as one consideration in suspect profiling or other law enforcement or other law enforcement practices. While often associated with police procedures, the factors used by aviation authorities in several countries to attempt to identify potential terrorists and prevent them from boarding airplanes. (Wikipedia) In the post-September 11th world, racial profiling is not justifiable in efforts to combat terrorism because it is ineffective, immoral, and it leads to negative consequences.
Racial profiling is ineffective in curbing terrorism. All nineteen hijackers of 9/11 are alleged affiliated with Al-Qaeda, which has an unclear structure. Nobody knows how many members it actually has, ranging from millions to zero. If there are just one hundred Al-Qaeda members worldwide, isn’t it ridiculous to suspect billions of Arabs simply because of a minimal fraction who are real terrorists? Let us focus on the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation already had an Arab population of one million in 2000, increased by 38.3 percent in ten years (United States). Most Arab Americans do not want to destroy their country, but their appearance still resembles the Arabs in the Middle East. Moreover, Arabs are not necessarily Muslims, and Muslims are not necessarily members of Al-Qaeda or other terrorist organizations. Even if an Arab is more likely to be an Al-Qaeda member than any other race, is it sufficient to judge one’s race simply by his or her appearance? Brown skin hardly tells anything. Unlike black and white which are distinctive, a brown-skinned man can be a Mexican, a Hispanic, a Thai, an Indonesian, and there are many other possibilities. Would a terrorist be so stupid to appear Muslim when he knows the security is eyeing his group? A columnist of the New York Times warned commuters “to be more aware of young men praying to Allah and smelling like flower water”, citing suggestions from the Department of Homeland Security that suicide bomber indicators include a “shaved head or short haircut. A short haircut or recently shaved beard or moustache may be evident by differences in skin complexion on the head or face” (Sperry A25). Are these really good indictators of a suicide bomber? Wearing perfume and having a short haircut are extremely common. And if a terrorist wants to disguise himself, he can simply not spray perfume on himself and wait for one month or two after shaving so that the skin complexion becomes the same. If we look at the past, we will find that terrorists are not only Arab, but also white: In the Moscow theatre hostage crisis which shocked the world, Chechen rebels seized a crowded Moscow theatre, taking over 700 hostages. Finally, all the terrorists were killed,...
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