Thursday, January 7, 2010


(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/4/2010) - A prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization today said new security measures announced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) amount to profiling of Muslims.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the new guidelines, under which anyone traveling from or through 13 Muslim-majority nations will be required to go through enhanced screening techniques before boarding flights, will disproportionately target American Muslims who have family or spiritual ties to the Islamic world and therefore amount to religious and ethnic profiling.

SEE: TSA Statement on New Security Measures for International Flights to the U.S.
U.S. Requests Pat-Downs on All Flights From 14 Nations

“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,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “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,” added Awad. “But knee-jerk policies will not address this serious challenge to public safety.”

In a commentary distributed today by CAIR challenging calls for profiling, Awad suggested alternatives to faith-based security checks: “First look at behavior, not at faith or skin color. 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.”

He noted that the behavior of the alleged Christmas Day bomber, not his national origin or faith, should have prevented him from ever boarding the flight. Suspicious behavior of the alleged bomber included paying cash for his ticket and checking in without luggage.

Awad also cited an editorial published today by the by the San Diego Union-Tribune, which states in part:

“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?”

SEE: Profiling Terrorists / Behavior, Not Religion or Ethnicity, Should be the Focus

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787, 202-744-7726, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail:



ISLAM-OPED is a syndication service of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) designed to offer an American Muslim perspective on current political, social and religious issues. ISLAM-OPED commentaries are offered free-of-charge to one media outlet in each market area. Permission for publication will be granted on a first-come-first-served basis.

Please consider the following commentary for publication.

TEL: Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787, 202-744-7726 (c)

Airport Profiling Hands a Victory to Terrorists
By Nihad Awad


(Nihad Awad is national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), America's largest Muslim civil rights organization. He may be contacted at:

Politicians and pundits ranging from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to New York’s Rep. Peter King are calling for racial and religious profiling at our nation’s airports in the wake of the failed Christmas Day attack in Detroit.

A conservative radio host told Fox News "there should be a separate [airport security] line to scrutinize anybody with the name 'Abdul' or 'Ahmed' or 'Mohammad.’”

New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind said he intends to re-introduce a bill that would allow police to use racial profiling to target “young Muslims of Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian background.”

Retired Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney took his call for profiling even further. On Fox News, he said: “If you are an 18 to 28-year-old Muslim man, then you should be strip searched.”

This would be a dream come true for terrorists.

Many arguments can be made against these renewed calls to institute profiling.

There is the moral and ethical argument that profiling violates an individual’s human rights.

There is the argument that profiling is un-American that it violates the very principles that our nation was founded on and that we all hold dear.

There is the argument that profiling is both ineffective and counterproductive.

In response to calls for profiling following the Christmas Day incident, former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff told an interviewer for National Public Radio: “I'm going to argue that this case illustrates the danger and the foolishness of profiling…I think it's not only problematic from a civil rights' standpoint, but frankly, I think it winds up not being terribly effective.”

Even the Bush administration Justice Department stated in a 2003 advisory report: “Racial profiling in law enforcement is not merely wrong, but also ineffective. Race-based assumptions in law enforcement perpetuate negative racial stereotypes that are harmful to our rich and diverse democracy, and materially impair our efforts to maintain a fair and just society.”

The use of racial and religious profiling can divert precious law enforcement resources from investigations of individuals who have been linked to terrorist activity by specific and credible evidence. It ignores the possibility that someone who does not fit the profile may be engaged in terrorism, or may be an unwitting accomplice to terrorism.

In 1995, after bombing the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh was able to flee while officers operated on the false theory that “Arab terrorists” had committed the attack.

An editorial published by the San Diego Union-Tribune stated in part:

“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?”

There is also the “creepiness” argument. How would airport security personnel determine who is and who is not Muslim? Do we really want to have each passenger asked about their religious beliefs? And what if the passenger’s last name is “Muhammad,” but they say they are not Muslim? Which line will they be sent to then? What about converts to Islam whose name and skin color do not “give away” their status as Muslims?

We often hear the “Swedish grandmother” argument from those who promote profiling that we should focus security efforts on the real problem, read “Muslims,” rather than on what is essentially a coded term for “white people.”

Then there is the constitutional argument.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to be safe from unreasonable search. In addition, the Fourteenth Amendment requires that all citizens be treated equally under the law.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that it is unconstitutional for a representative of the government to make decisions based on race.

But of all the arguments against racial and religious profiling at airports, one stands head and shoulders above the others - the argument that profiling hands an underserved victory to the terrorists.

Attacks such as the failed plot to bomb the airliner on Christmas Day cannot possibly have a real impact on our nation in military terms. These attacks are a form of psychological warfare designed to impact public opinion the very definition of terrorism and make us do things we would normally reject, such as profiling.

Profiling sends the message to millions of Muslim travelers that it is their faith, not terrorism, that is the problem. This is precisely the talking point put forward by the religious extremists of Al-Qaeda who say the West is at war with Islam and all Muslims, and that everyone had better choose sides.

Religious profiling is a recruiting and public relations tool for terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda. Let’s not do Al-Qaeda’s work for them.

If not profiling, what action can we take to boost airline safety and security?

First look at behavior, not at faith or skin color. 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.

Along with boosting training and detection equipment, clean up the inaccurate terror watch lists that have ballooned in the post-9/11 era and work the kinks out of an intelligence system that would let a person get on a plane to America even after his own father had notified security services about his disturbing behavior.

Using profiling may make some people feel safer, but it is a false sense of security that ultimately harms our nation and the principles on which it was founded.


Fox News, 1/4/09

LONDON — American authorities announced that as of Monday, anyone traveling from or through nations regarded as state sponsors of terrorism -- as well as "other countries of interest" -- will be required to go through enhanced screening techniques before boarding flights.

The Transportation Security Administration said those heightened security measures would include full-body pat-downs, carryon bag searches, full-body scanning and explosive detection technology.

The U.S. State Department lists Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria as state sponsors of terrorism. The other countries whose passengers will face enhanced screening include Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen…

Muslim advocacy groups bristled at the new TSA rules and urged the agency to consider alternatives. “It comes pretty close to across-the-board profiling of Muslim travelers,” said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic relations, adding that it would unfairly single out not just foreigners but Muslim Americans traveling to see their families in the selected countries. “It only serves to alienate those whose hearts and minds we’re trying to win.”

Alejandro Beutel, government liaison for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said the ruling would cast such a wide net as to ultimately be ineffective.

“We do see this as profiling, and profiling is very poor policing,” he said. (More)


Farah Akbar, Gotham Gazette, January 2010

Coming from a family with members who work in law enforcement, Yasmin Nasser used to look at police officers as honest, upstanding and there to protect all members of society. Today, though, Nasser said, she feels uneasy when she walks by cops and, for a brief period, tried staying away from them altogether.

The 20-year-old American citizen who resides in Saudi Arabia had come to New York City to visit family. Her trust in New York City's finest eroded the day she claims a police officer pulled her by the arm, told her to leave Rockefeller Center, where she had gone to see the Christmas tree, and called her a "terrorist." She was asked to provide identification to the officer, was subsequently accused of having phony identification and allegedly told, "Leave you terrorist, you shouldn't be here."…

The Council of American Islamic Relations analyzed civil rights cases in 2008 by circumstances of occurrence. The group found encounters with police ranked sixth, following schools and prison. "Underreporting of hate crimes and police misconduct cases remains a real issue with American Muslims,” said the council's New York civil rights director Aliya Latif.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, law enforcement officials have worked on building a cooperative relationship with the American Muslim community in an effort to obtain valuable information related to terrorism and safety issues. Muslim groups worry that allegations of misconduct by law enforcement damage the fragile ties between the two groups. "We are concerned that incidents like these further alienate community members and contribute to an atmosphere of mistrust with law enforcement authorities," Latif said. (More)


Matt Coker, OC Weekly, 1/4/10

This is no way to start the new year fresh: local Muslims are dealing with two incidents of anti-Islam hate targeting their community.

A burned copy of the Quran was found during Friday prayers at the back entrance of the Islamic Educational Center of Orange County in Costa Mesa. A burned Quran had been left in the same spot a month previous, and the mosque has been vandalized within the last three weeks. As shown above, vandals also defaced the Muslim component of an interfaith holiday display in Mission Viejo. A piece of paper stuck to the display, shown below, stated, "No Islamic Lighthouses in the U.S.A." (More)


Costa Mesa police step up patrols after incidents at the center, including the burning of two copies of the Koran. The Muslim part of an interfaith display in Mission Viejo was defaced, a group says.
Kim Christensen, Los Angeles Times, 1/3/2010

Costa Mesa police have stepped up patrols near the Islamic Educational Center of Orange County, the target of recent anti-Islamic acts including vandalism, hate mail and the burning of two copies of the Koran.

Vandals also recently defaced part of an outdoor interfaith holiday display in Mission Viejo, according to the Los Angeles office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which denounced both acts as "incidents of anti-Islam hate targeting the local Muslim community."

The two incidents are thought to be unrelated but appear to be part of a recent uptick in anti-Muslim acts nationally, especially since the attempted terrorist bombing of a jetliner headed to Detroit on Christmas, council spokeswoman Munira Syeda said Saturday. (More)


Mission Viejo Dispatch, 1/2/2010

An Islamic religious display at the traditional LaPaz and Chrisanta seasonal exhibits was defaced according to an announcement today from the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization.

Muslim display note small MV Police Services stated the defacing occurred after 10 p.m. on Friday and included the use of red spray paint on the display. The 10-ft-tall exhibit is new this year, replacing the customary Muslim display, and was erected less than ten days earlier. Vandals attached a printed note to the backside reading, “No Islamic Lighthouses in the U.S.A.”

CAIR complained of rising hate crimes against Muslims, also citing two incidents of burned Qurans found at a Costa Mesa mosque. (More)


Karin Kamp,, 1/4/10

The Swiss minaret ban, agreed by voters on Sunday, heightens a general concern by Muslims in the United States about the challenges faced by Muslims living in Europe.

“Our fear is that the ban is going to further alienate a growing population of Muslims in Europe,” said Faiza Ali of The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a leading Muslim-American group.

Ali cited other examples of challenges faced by European Muslims, including French resistance to burkas worn by some Muslim women, and opposition in parts of Europe to Turkish membership in the European Union.

CAIR has called on President Barack Obama to denounce the minaret ban, stating that America’s silence would send a negative message to the Muslim world.

“The president has made an effort to reach out to Muslims outside of the United States to build up a relationship that was tarnished during the Bush era,” Ali said. “We want him to continue those efforts and speak out against the ban.”

At the same time, Ali said her group is against efforts to boycott Swiss products and services, believing that civic engagement is more fruitful.

Chorus of disapproval

Besides national papers, such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, a number of local newspapers have also denounced the decision. The New York Daily News, called the Swiss vote “utterly idiotic” adding that “passing laws that target Muslims for being Muslims is not part of any clash of civilizations, it is a failure of one”. (More)

1 comment:

fizak said...

McInerney Calls for More Strip-Searching: 6-15 Year Old Muslim Boys are Next