The right wing’s predictable policy prescription in the aftermath of any terror incident is to impose greater ethnic profiling of Muslims. For instance, following the Ft. Hood shooting, Sarah Palin said, “profile away.” After six imams were removed from a plane in Minnesota in 2006, Ann Coulter justified profiling Muslims by arguing that it’s just like “profiling the Klan.” That same year, after British authorities revealed a terrorist plot to blow up planes headed to the U.S., right-wing radio host Mike Gallagher said, “It’s time to have a Muslims check-point line” at airports.
They’re at it again. In the wake of the failed terrorist attempt aboard a Northwest airlines flight on Christmas Day, the right wing is renewing its pleas for more profiling of Muslims:
Rep. Peter King (R-NY): “100 percent of the Islamic terrorists are Muslim, and that is our main enemy today. So why we should not be profiling people because of their religion?”
Terrorism pundit Steven Emerson: “Remember, there have been so many complaints about quote, profiling, by the quote, Islamic civil rights groups, that they stopped basically profiling. And that basically led to not putting this guy onto the terrorist watch list.”
Unsurprisingly, Fox News has served as the platform for right-wing voices calling for more profiling. Watch a compilation:
Broad-based ethnic profiling is counterproductive for a host of reasons. It creates a false sense of security and causes law enforcement resources to be wasted in chasing the wrong targets. Terrorists come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. John Walker Lindh was white, while Richard Reid was Jamaican and British. As the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights has reported:
Terrorism profiling is a crude substitute for behavior-based enforcement. It violates core American values, including the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. It also hinders anti-terrorism efforts because it alienates people and communities that are critical to the success of the anti-terrorism effort.
Non-specific profiling of certain religions or races amounts to a witch-hunt against a class of people, creating the perception among the larger society that those individuals containing certain suspect features (skin color, foreign-sounding names, foreign-language skills, etc) are to be feared.
Yesterday, two Middle Eastern men were pulled off a flight heading to Phoenix because passengers reported they were engaging in suspicious behavior. The men were speaking in a Middle Eastern language. And on a Detroit-bound flight yesterday, a Nigerian businessman was taken off an airplane because passengers became suspicious that he was lingering in the bathroom for too long. The FBI confirmed that the individual’s behavior was due to a legitimate illness.