Nothing sums up the pointlessness, the prejudice and the unfairness behind profiling better than the following incident, which the Council on American-Islamic Relations reported in an action alert:
“A Muslim woman traveler taking a flight Tuesday from Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) to Los Angeles (LAX) reported that Transportation Security Administration personnel first requested that she take off her hijab, then put her through a ‘humiliating’ public full-body pat-down search when she refused. After the pat-down, the Muslim traveler’s luggage, coat, shoes, laptop, and cell phone were searched and tested for bomb-making chemicals.
When the traveler, a resident of Maryland, questioned TSA staff about the way she was being treated, she was allegedly told that a new policy went into effect that morning mandating that ‘anyone wearing a head scarf must go through this type of search.'”
The fact that the “Christmas Day bomber” Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab wasn’t a hijab-wearing woman didn’t seem to deter the TSA from harassing a harmless traveler. And it wasn’t an isolated incident, as this excerpt from a Jan. 7 report on CTV showed:
“Ayat Manna says she was made to feel like a terrorist while she was detained by U.S. border officials while trying to board a plane to Ohio to visit her husband. She was eventually let go but was not allowed to board the flight entering the U.S.”
This racism at airport terminals is essentially inevitable, for two reasons: because we live in a racist society shaped by a history of conquest and hegemonic control and because Islamic fundamentalist terrorists constantly attack airlines, in part to fight back against conquest and hegemonic control
It’s a mutually beneficial relationship; one can’t exist without the other. As such, we can’t solve one problem without solving the other – and we can’t solve both problems unless we go to their common source: neocolonialism. Washington’s hegemony over the Muslim world – especially the Middle East – is the source of fundamentalist terror.
That was the opinion of the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Science Board report released in late 2004, which found “The overwhelming majority (of the Muslim world) voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states.”
Such a system cannot be voted out of existence. Far from being the “Change We Can Believe In,” the Obama administration has proven itself to be as capable and ruthless an overlord as the previous administration, especially where Afghanistan is concerned.
Since taking office, the Obama administration has increased the number of aerial drone attacks in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan that the Bush administration first implemented; according to a study by the New America Foundation, Obama authorized as many CIA drone attacks in Pakistan alone in his first nine and a half months as Bush did in his final three years.
“So far this year, various estimates suggest, the CIA attacks have killed between three hundred and twenty-six and five hundred and thirty-eight people,” according to The New Yorker article last October, “The Predator War. ” “Critics say that many of the victims have been innocent bystanders, including children.”
A UN report, “Mid-Year Bulletin on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Afghanistan,” found a total of 1013 civilian deaths in the first six months of this year, “an increase of 24% of civilian casualties in the first six months of 2009 as compared to the same period in 2008.”
In other words, Obama is as much of a war criminal and occupier as Bush (and every other president). And since neocolonialism in general – and occupation in particular – fuels terrorism, the Obama administration is, in fact, part of the problem, not the solution.
Yet groups like CAIR demonstrate how not to solve this problem by playing up the administration’s positive rhetoric and either downplaying, or ignoring outright, the administration’s actions.
On Jan. 7th, a CAIR press release cited a letter written by the group’s National Executive Director Nihad Awad to Pres. Barack Obama regarding profiling. He wrote: “… the American Muslim community appreciates your administration’s efforts to keep our nation safe and secure. American Muslims offer their full support in that effort.”
Nowhere does the letter mention the basis for terrorism – the neocolonial foreign policy that has hardly changed under the Obama administration. Since taking office, Obama has expanded the Afghanistan occupation. That has fueled recruitment for Al-Qaeda, as did the occupation of Iraq.
In an article on muslimmatters.org called “Occupation, not Islam, Breeds Terrorism,” author Abd-Allah H. reiterated that “the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq – among other invasions – has fueled a surge in “Islamic terrorism.” Chris Hedges, author and Anshutz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton University, wrote in response to Obama’s speech in Cairo last June:
“Muslim rage is stoked because we station tens of thousands of American troops on Muslim soil, occupy two Muslim nations, make possible the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine, support repressive Arab regimes and torture thousands of Muslims in offshore penal colonies where prisoners are stripped of their rights.”
Yet, Awad writes letters to Obama as if he were a partner, citing his Cairo speech as proof of his good intentions. Nowhere does he mention the Afghan occupation or the massive civilian casualties; neither did CAIR mention it in the aftermath of the Ft. Hood shooting, which was triggered by the shooter’s inevitable deployment to Afghanistan.
Even sillier was the “protest” carried out at Abdulmutallab’s hearing last week by 100 Muslims organized by a Facebook group called Dearborn Area Community Members headed by local attorney Majed Moughni.
“It’s very frustrating to know that these guys are using Islam and committing terror,” Moughni told The Detroit Free Press Dec. 28, adding “Islam stands for peace.”
It’s equally frustrating when Muslim groups resort to PR stunts rather than organizing a grassroots, long term anti-occupation movement that will go a long way not only in saving the lives and dignity of Muslims (and non-Muslims), but also ensure safer air travel for all without resort to discriminatory and repressive “security” methods.