7.27.2005

"Can They Focus on Arab Muslim Men?"

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I am a woman. A Christian. A graduate of UCLA. I bleed red, white and blue. Am a mostly faithful 3-hour/day listener to Sean Hannity. I am, uh, thirty-something. And, one more thing, I am Egyptian.

Why does any of this matter? Because some of the above characteristics have come to the forefront of conversation since September 11, 2001.

Not all those defining characteristics show up on paper. For example, I sometimes get junk mail for "Mr. Lores Rizkalla." Since the junk mailers don't have the benefit of seeing my Just A Woman website, they don't always know what to make of my name. Also, I have had many a puzzled acquaintance at the discovery that my Egyptian family has given me a protestant Christian heritage. (Protestant Christians are the minority of the approximately 5% of Christians in Egypt). Again, something not readily available on paper.

I believe it was July 2002 when I was taking a little trip to Nashville. (I know, I know. Who would voluntarily go to Nashville? Only the dearest of friends would make Nashville an option.) In any case, I began socializing with the gentlemen behind the counter at my LAX departure gate. Very nice people, harassing me for having talked on my cell phone the entire time I was in line. We continued to chat when there was a sudden look of confusion on this man's face. He didn't do anything unusual but seemed to be pressing more keys on the key board with a bit of frustration.

I didn't think anything of it. "Old computer," I thought. "Poor guy must have to deal with the problems of a dinosaur computer all day!" As his tapping turned into pounding, I realized there was a problem. The gathering of two others who joined him now also gave me a hint that perhaps it wasn't a computer problem afterall. When my gift of observing the obvious kicked in, I asked them if there was a problem.

"It doesn't make sense. But, there's some kind of security check on your name," he said. They looked at each other, looked at me and then looked at each other with that same I-don't-get-it look. Long story short, about 40 minutes later, they circumvented the system in order to clear me to get on the plane.

While I'd started to get nervous about making my flight, I breathed a sigh of relief. It may not have made sense to them but it did to me. On paper, I was a 30-something Egyptian who may have been male trying to get on a non-stop cross-country flight.


I wasn't just relieved to get on my flight to see my friends. I knew that they would eventually figure out that I was safe. I was thrilled and thanked them for having stopped someone with my profile. I know we've heard this before. But, it is worth repeating that not every Middle Easterner is a terrorist. But on September 11, every one of those terrorists was male, Muslim and Middle Eastern.

So the drama that has ensued over racial profiling is absolutely ridiculous to me. If there's nothing to hide, then aren't you happy to get on a plane or a train knowing they've checked anyone fitting the profile? Sure, there may be others who don't fit the profile. But, does that excuse us from checking those who do?

The debate now surrounds New York subways. Police are taking measures to make sure that here is no profiling. Are you kidding? I find it absolutely irresponsible to not profile. In a
recent MSNBC report, David Aarsonson of American University's Washington College of Law said this: "Can they focus on Arab Muslim men? Probably not."

Aarsonson went on to explain the reasoning. "They have to have procedures for who gets selected, whether it's every fifth or tenth person, which involve neutral criteria." It appears that political correctness has replaced common sense. I'm sure Osama bin Laden is loving this! Is this the best way to ensure the safety of the American people? I highly doubt it.

While I think it is critically important to protect our individual liberties from further and future government involvement in our lives, we must grapple with the reality of our post-9/11 world. I'm not advocating a limitation of our individual rights. What I am proposing is a little wisdom, common sense and strategy in the war on terror, the greatest threat not only to liberties but to our very lives.

18 Comments:

At 7/27/2005 01:44:00 AM, Blogger vincentt said...

At least the France don't bomb children like the Americans...

 
At 7/27/2005 02:13:00 AM, Blogger Layman said...

And how many generations of French children did the United States save from the Nazis? Just as the United States is now saving the future generations of Iraq. Ingratitude is only slightly more annoying than undue moral arrogance. When you combine the two you get Jaques Chirac and his ilk.

In any event, Lores, I'm not so sure that you ended up with a security flag on your name because of your ethnicity. As it turns out, my name is on the Do Not Fly List. I only made my last business trip because the birth dates are different.

 
At 7/27/2005 03:28:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My question is "how can they not focus on Arab Muslim men?" THAT is the profile of the current terrorist. If some new profile starts appearing, I would hope the authorities would profile that particular group as well. It is unfortunate for all those who are of Arab decent who have nothing to hide and mean no harm to be inconvenienced. As long as it stays just that, an inconvenience, as opposed to harrassement, which would be wrong and a violation of one's rights, how can we not profile in this day? I too hope that common sense does not get swallowed up by political correctness, otherwise I fear we will all pay a heavy price. Hindsight will do us no good.

 
At 7/27/2005 03:58:00 AM, Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

What an ignorant, off-topic post by vincentt. No, Vincentt, France was too busy acting as obstructionists because they stood to lose their profiteering with Saddam through the UN Food for Oil program.

Lores, I have been planning on posting my thoughts on profiling, and must say that I totally agree with you here. I am Asian, with ties to the Japanese-American community, which, as you know, had a good percentage of its populace interned. We are so racism-paranoid that we are quick to call out racism everywhere. Common sense is becoming less and less common.

I am of the mind of Michelle Malkin on this.

 
At 7/27/2005 04:28:00 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Good post from someone who gets it. For the record, Al Qaida uses women as suicide bombers too. I am sorry that you were inconvienieced. But at the same time I am comforted to know that despite all the objections to profiling, that they still do it for security reasons.
I wish anon had posted a real name with a link to a blog, that comment hit the nail on the head and it's the first time i ever saw the point made that there is a difference between inconvienence and harrassment.
One more little personal note: I thought you were Latina! lol

 
At 7/27/2005 04:48:00 AM, Blogger mlwhitt said...

Oh layman, you forget that we American's are hated except when we are helping your country. Everyone hates us until they need us. The French have short memories indeed. My Grandfather nearly gave his life on many occasions to protect French children, but hey he was American so he must be evil.

America makes bad choices a lot of the time. We ain't perfect. But Vincentt man, we do a lot more good than bad. Else you would be speaking German and your country would have a different flag twice over.

I know that you don't speak for all for France, but people like you remind me of a lot of people on the Wellfare system in the US. Everyone hates them and no one will help them, but darn if they don't mind cashing that wellfare check when it comes in.

Your country doesn't have the guts to stand up for what is right, even if it means every now and then doing something that it may not like to do.

I hate to see innocent lives lost, but plenty of innocent young American lives were lost to protect your freedoms. So why all the jealousy and outrage when American goes to help another people?

 
At 7/27/2005 04:49:00 AM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

Layman, I can't believe you were on the "Do Not Fly List!" I hope you weren't trying to conceal your identity here...but, what do they want with a white male lawyer?!

I, too, wish that Anon would have posted their name. Excellent comment!

Wordsmith, I wish all security screeners (and those directing them) would read Michelle M's stuff. It would eliminate all political correctness.

Mark, I've been asked about being Latino, Greek, Persian, Italian and New Yorkan :)

 
At 7/27/2005 04:58:00 AM, Blogger mlwhitt said...

I don't see ANYTHING wrong with profiling someone before they use public transportation. Now stopping going door to door to say Arabs houses just because they are Arab. That I don't agree with. But weither people want to admit it or not. Flying on an airplane isn't a right. So therefor if you want to have the privilege to fly you need to be ready to have to go through profiling.

When Redheaded White Men start blowing up stuff, I will be the first in line to say profile away on me, because if it means my family are a little more safe just because they check out every REDHEAD that boards a plane, I will not say a word about it.

Let me put it this way. If my fellow Christians started killing people, and I started getting profiled because I was a Christian. Do you think I will blame everyone else that isn't a Christian? Nope, I am going to go to my fellow Christians and say..... "Look here guys, some of you are crazy bad apples. You ain't real Christians because real Christians don't kill people. So either you guys put a end to this crap or your fellow breathern are going to".

In other words if Arabs or whoever don't like profiling but it is their own people that are causing the profiling, they should either help put a stop to the mess or be prepared to be profiled.

Sorry I am rambling.

 
At 7/27/2005 05:05:00 AM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

mlwhitt, not rambling at all. It is definitely a mystery as to why Muslim groups have not been the first and most vocal to condemn terrorism being done in the name of their religion.

As a Christian, I can hardly stand for someone to defame the name of Jesus and His people by doing stupid, immoral or criminal things in the name of Christianity.

Where are all the peace-loving Muslims????

I love the passion, mlwhitt. Don't stop!

 
At 7/27/2005 05:29:00 AM, Blogger mlwhitt said...

Thanks Lores. By the way just posted a bit on my blog where I quoted you. Hope you don't mind.

We hear time and time about peaceful muslims. I have had muslim friends and I don't doubt that they are peaceful. But I often wonder why they and other's like them don't make more of a stand. Like you said if someone in my Christian circle started killing innocent people in the name of Jesus, I would have to speak out in a big way against them. I am afraid that the only real way that this will ever end even remotely peacefully will be for the muslim population as a whole to speak out.

I don't want to see people profiled. I hate the thought of it. But I hate the thought of losing my family and friends a lot more.

 
At 7/27/2005 05:32:00 AM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

I'm honored to be quoted, Michael. Thanks.

 
At 7/27/2005 01:36:00 PM, Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

I just remembered, I did mention in one of my entries an analogy to being profiled. http://hammeringsparksfromtheanvil.blogspot.com/2005/07/by-numbers-july-10-2005-civil.html

Basically, my example was how on occasion, a cashier who actually pays attention to the name on the credit card, may see that I have a western last name....yet my face is Asiatic. So, is it so unreasonable if she asked to see my photo ID? No. I don't get offended. Of course the fact that my ethnicity doesn't match the ethnic background of my last name, isn't unique; but it is rare enough that it is not unreasonable at all for her to make an inquiry. I don't take it personally. The way I look at it is, if I was someone who lost my credit card, I damn hope that if cashier's aren't actively checking everyone's ID, that they are at least mentally active enough (not just going through the motions) to have a red flag raised. Not to be maliciously suspicious; only curious to gather more information from me, to verify my identity. That kind of racial profiling isn't "racist" in the negative sense of the word. It's using logical, common sense. I used to cashier myself, and we always asked all customers for ID if they did not sign the back of the card, or if their signature on the charge draft did not match the signature on the back of the card. It amazed me how personally offended some people could feel. How can you not feel relieved that here is a place that, if you ever lost your card, would verify the card-user is the card-holder?

As far as Muslims not speaking out more vocally, I think many are afraid of their more violent, intolerant religious "brethren". But they are the ones who should be the most vocal, speaking out against the perversion in their religion. But who we hear more from are the Muslim sympathizers to extremist radicals, and the excuse-makers.

 
At 7/27/2005 02:35:00 PM, Blogger Layman said...

"... what do they want with a white male lawyer?"

What does anyone want with a white male lawyer?

 
At 7/28/2005 03:16:00 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Lores? New Yorkan? LOL!

 
At 7/28/2005 03:20:00 AM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

Layman, don't believe all those things everyone says about you guys. White male lawyers are welcome here! ;)

And, Mark, yes, isn't New York its own country?! Kinda like Texas :)

 
At 7/28/2005 05:49:00 AM, Blogger loren said...

This was a great post. PC assumes it knows what others think and what their priorities are, but why don't they just stop and ask?

 
At 7/28/2005 02:29:00 PM, Anonymous mitya said...

I agree: a nice post. Although I still have problems with the concept of profiling, it just seems wilfully ignorant to pretend that Muslims/Arabs are not the majority -- if not all -- of the terrorists striking against western countries. While there is certainly some preventive value in the public knowing that anyone and everyone could be searched, stopping school-age children or WASPy women seems like a waste of time, at least at present.

One remark re: Layman's comment. I have spent a lot of time in the former Soviet Union. Most people over there would say the exact same thing, substituting "Polish" or "Czech" for "French," and "USSR" for "United States." So tread carefully with your reprobations. The US hopes it will be saving the future generations of Iraq. It remains to be seen whether it will succeed, or simply substitute a different set of ills for Saddam Hussein's.

 
At 7/28/2005 06:12:00 PM, Blogger Layman said...

Mitya,

If anyone in this thread was making gross oversimplifications, it was vincentt's claim that America is bombing children.

My response provides context and clarification. We have no doubt killed children unintentionally in the Operaton Iraqi Freedom, but we have done so while attempting to establish a democracy and give all of the children of Iraq a future. Which sounds a little better than, "Americans bomb children."

That we may fail in this endeavor is a possibility. One made more plausible by attitudes such as vincentt's. But it is not our intention and we have expended precious lives and resources in a noble effort.

 

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