The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Racial profiling a shallow policy

After the deadly London bombings occurred in early July, there was fear that the attacks would be emulated in the United States.

The reason for this fear was not unfounded, as Muslim extremists have targeted other public transit systems in Spain, Russia, and Israel. Train passengers quickly became familiar with the sight of military troops patrolling stations and hearing speakers announce the reminder that passengers with backpacks and containers are subject to random checks.

However, some journalists, academics, and even politicians reject the policy of random checking and favor the idea of racially profiling young Muslim men who appear to be of Arab, North African, or South Asian descent.

In “Giving Grandma a Pass; Politically Correct Screening Won’t Catch Jihadists,” Charles Krauthammer says that, “The overwhelming odds are that the guy bent on blowing up your train traces his origins to the Islamic belt stretching from Mauritania to Indonesia.”

Krauthammer certainly fails to realize that people from these areas do not all fit the Arab, North African, and South Asian description. One needs to look no further than the Muslims on St. John’s campus to realize how diverse the group is.

Even Arabs are tremendously diverse when it comes to appearance. Arabs range from extremely light skinned to very dark. Furthermore, people of Hispanic and South American descent can be easily mistaken for an Arab. For example, Jean Charles de Menezez, the Brazilian electrician killed by the London police, was mistaken to be one of the failed attackers of July 21st. Hispanic actors have also played Arabs on screen (Antonio Banderas played Ahmad ibn Fadlan in The 13th Warrior).

African Americans make up a significant portion of the Muslim American population as well. Racial profiling of Muslims is seriously flawed because other minority groups, such as Hispanics and non-Muslim African Americans, can be mistaken to be Muslims. It is also necessary to establish the fact that the majority of Arab Americans are, in fact, not Muslims.

Krauthammer also goes on to sarcastically write that racial profiling “will simply encourage the jihadists to start recruiting elderly Norwegian women.” Certainly al-Qaeda could turn to recruiting people who do not belong to groups that would be racially profiled. Suppose disgruntled Chechens who decide to join al-Qaeda aim at harming the United States. Would they be checked if there was racial profiling?

Also, it is known that other racial groups, especially African Americans, were negatively affected by racial profiling in the United States. In a prepared statement for Congress, law professor David A. Harris of Toledo University said, “Polling data have long shown that blacks believe that the justice system is biased against them. For example, in a Justice Department survey released in 1999, blacks were more than twice as likely as whites to say they are dissatisfied with their police.”

It is easy to see that Muslim Americans may also become dissatisfied with law enforcement and even possibly become alienated from American society if racial profiling is enforced. A Muslim student of Arab descent, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “When people profile young Muslims, it drives them away from American society.” Discrimination sets people’s minds in an “us versus them” mode.

Many echoed the same feeling as sophomore Kimberly Vanwyhe when she said, “Anyone can bring in a gun or weapon but it is not up to a certain group. If you are going to target one group, you should target all.” A Long Island Rail Road employee, when asked about his feeling on racial profiling of Muslims, said, “Maybe observing, but not checking everybody before they come in because it would be impossible.”

According to Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, as of July 2005, 36 percent of Americans believe Islam encourages violence (this fell from 44 percent in July 2003); 39 percent hold a favorable view of Islam; and 55 percent hold a favor

In an attempt to help their fellow Americans, Islamic organizations and mosques throughout the country are collecting food, clothing, and money for those who have been affected by Katrina.

We must see that we can stop a clash of civilizations in the United States by promoting an understanding between civilizations.

Racial profiling will only hinder that understanding.

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