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Profiling also fits into puzzle

Published on: 09/01/06

Another terrorist attack on the United States was narrowly averted last month when British authorities arrested nearly 30 conspirators plotting to take down up to 10 airliners with liquid-gel bombs.

One obvious similarity between this and the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is that both involved airplanes fueled up for long-distance flights. Another is that once again, Muslim men of Middle Eastern origin or descent were the prime culprits.

The response by organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations was, as usual, a hasty warning not to fall into the trap of "racially profiling" young Middle Eastern or Muslim men, as well as the well-worn admonishment , "Not all Muslims are terrorists."

It is an inarguable fact that, while most Muslims are not terrorists, the majority of terrorists are, in fact, Muslim, and of Middle Eastern descent.

According to the National Counterterrorism Center's 2005 " Report on Incidents of Terrorism," 58.3 percent of terrorist attacks worldwide were carried out by strictly defined "Islamic extremists" — and that is just the verifiable number. Many more were suspected to have been carried out by radical Islamists, but proof did not rise to the level necessary for inclusion in the report.

America and much of the Western world continue to look the other way rather than address this demonstrable demographic. The British, however, are openly debating whether to implement new airport security methods that take it into account.

Former Scotland Yard Chief Lord Stevens, in an interview with the Guardian newspaper, said these protocols should include focusing on "people that behave suspiciously, have unusual travel plans or are of a certain religion or ethnicity."

When there is a demonstrable threat from a particular demographic, it is only logical that people who fit that profile should receive closer scrutiny. The highest-ranking Muslim in British law enforcement, Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Ali Dizaei, spoke out against profiling, telling the Guardian that, in his opinion, passenger screening "becomes hugely problematic when it's based on ethnicity, religion and country of origin. ... I don't think there's a stereotypical image of a terrorist."

Profiling is certainly not the be-all, end-all of national security and counter-terror protocol. After all, it is easy to list terrorists who have either been non-Muslim or non-Middle Eastern. However, for every individual resembling Richard Reid, Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph or Jose Padilla there are exponentially more terrorists of Middle Eastern descent.

While profiling in and of itself cannot ensure our safety, it can — and should — be yet another tool of law enforcement. It is true that all terrorists are not young Muslim males of Middle Eastern descent. However, as long as far more terrorists fit that description than not, profiling is a tactic that must not only be allowed but encouraged.


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