(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.
“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?”
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: email@example.com; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org