Profile? Definitely Yes; Generalize? Definitely Not
It’s being reported that ordinary people are taking matters into their own hands and are practicing the kind of profiling that makes the most sense. Airline passengers in Russia, Great Britain, the United States and Canada have either stopped flights or just gotten off flights when confronted with Muslim-looking young men who looked suspicious for one reason or another.
Put this together with a recent survey of highly negative American attitudes towards Muslims, and you get the sense that there is real trouble brewing for America’s Muslim communities. In my opinion it makes great good sense for security personnel to look much harder at young Muslim men because virtually every terrorist act committed in the last quarter century has been committed by Muslim men between the ages of 17 and 40.
What this should NOT mean, however, is the wholesale condemnation of Muslim-Americans. They may not be doing enough to combat terrorism, and the terrorists may be folk heroes to some, but most Muslims here and around the world are not jidadists. Americans should not forget that gangsters like Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, and Al Capone were folk heroes to many as well, but society did not tolerate their criminal behavior. Italian-Americans, who were tarred by mafia generalizations, should be especially sensitive to the problems of the law-abiding Muslim community.
I do not agree with everything expressed in the following article, but this excerpt highlights the growing trend:
Sane Mutiny: The Coming Populist Revolt
Tech Central Station
By Arnold Kling 22 Aug 2006
"British holidaymakers staged an unprecedented mutiny -- refusing to allow their flight to take off until two men they feared were terrorists were forcibly removed.
The extraordinary scenes happened after some of the 150 passengers on a Malaga-Manchester flight overheard two men of Asian appearance apparently talking Arabic."
--The Daily Mail, August 20, 2006
I am not a pollster, but my sense is that there has been a shift in the popular mood in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel as a result of events this summer in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and London. I suspect that this is one of those eras where the political elites are out of touch with mass opinion. In this case, I think that the elites are mostly wrong, and I hope that they adjust.
Regarding the "mutiny" of the British airplane passengers, no doubt the elites are thinking, "Oh, what awful behavior on the part of passengers. They are ruining our effort to reassure Muslims that they face no discrimination."
Meanwhile, the people are thinking, "Look, the fact that you subject all passengers to the same humiliating searching and restrictions says that you have no idea who is dangerous and who is not. If you are that incompetent, then don't expect us to trust you when you tell us that a plane is safe."
The elites focused on hair gels and other liquids that were supposed tools of the plot. Everyone else noticed the ethnicity of the plotters. As James Joyner put it recently on TCS,
"Keeping passengers from taking nail clippers, toothpaste, and hair gel with them causes an inconvenience disproportionate to the infinitesimal gain in safety provided. Likewise, forcing people to arrive at the airport three hours early so they may stand in line to have their shoes checked for explosives is plainly silly.
It makes far more sense to harden targets and screen for likely terrorists than to treat all citizens as potential terrorists." Tech Central Station
The author is a TCS Daily Contributing Editor.