Innocent until proven Arab


Since 911, the US has quickly revamped policies relating to security. When the idea of Muslim profiling was raised, it caused a significant stir around the world.

Profiling

In the past, Law enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) have repeatedly investigated, stopped, questioned and in some cases searched individuals due to the colour of their skin, origin, gender, or sexual orientation.


Profiling is not something that sprung up after 911, dedicated to “protect” us. It violates civil liberties and generalises by appearance. This method has now increased in intensity, expanding its scope into religion and origin.


October 1, 2002, INS inspectors began land, sea and airport campaign allowing authorities to fingerprint, photograph and track visiting aliens who have traveled to Indonesia or Malaysia. Previously, INS inspectors were limited special screening visitors from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya and Syria.

Religious Profiling

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been busy keeping up with racial and religious profiling cases after 911. Two examples:


  1. An Illinois National Guardsman and three private security personnel at O’Hare International Airport engaged in an unnecessary, unjustified, illegal and degrading search of a 22 year old United States citizen of Pakistani descent last November. Ms. Kaukab was identified and subjected to a humiliating search not because she posed any security threat, but only because her wearing of a hijab identified her as a Muslim. [1]
  2. Five men, including Michael Dasrath and Edgardo Cureg, had their civil rights violated when they were forced off of Continental Flight #1218 on New Year’s Eve, after a fellow passenger stated “[the] brown men are behaving suspiciously.” Five civil rights lawsuits were filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of the men. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is a co-plaintiff in three of the cases. The lawsuits were filed simultaneously in LA, MD, NJ and San Francisco. Four of the passengers are United States citizens and the fifth is a permanent legal resident.

The ACLU writes, “We bring these lawsuits because, as a nation, we long ago settled the issue of discrimination. We declared it to be wrong, immoral, and contrary to fundamental American values. We also made it illegal. We decided that every individual should be allowed to participate in every aspect of American society, including in the American economy; to eat at restaurants and stay in hotels; to travel on buses and airplanes.”[2]


This treatment is not only racist, but it also violates the 4th Amendment which states that the authorities require probable cause prior to a search. Profiling also violates the 14th Amendment which ensures equal protection for everyone regardless of race.

Hate Crimes

Hate crimes are on the rise. The number of reported anti-Islamic crimes increased from 28 in 2000 to 481 in 2001. According to the FBI [3], the overall number of hate crimes increased dramatically from 8,063 in 2000 to 9,726 in 2001, signaling an increase of 20.6%.


Racially motivated bias represented the largest percentage of bias related incidents at 44.9%, followed by ethnic/national origin bias at 21.6%. Religious based bias rose to 18.8% in 2001.


The FBI currently does not collect statistics on anti-Arab or anti-Sikh hate crimes.


Organisers of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) [4] and the Arab American Institute (AAI) report there have been over 200 incidents of abuse directed against Arab-Americans since 911.

Does Racial and Religion Profiling Generalise?

Those who are considered terrorists are of various ethnic and religious backgrounds and operate all around the world. High profile attacks such as 911 have brought U.S. attention on terrorists in or from the Middle East, and the US State Department has identified many groups with Arab/Muslim connections – this does not mean only Arabs and Muslims are capable of terrorism.


Racial profiling of Arabs would prove difficult because Arabs may have light skin and blue eyes to olive or dark skin and brown eyes. The US has, at various times, classified Arab immigrants as African, Asian, European or white. They have roots spread over several countries such as parts or all of Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Arabs are residing in Israel, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Spain, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The Arab world of the 7th to the 13th centuries joined the peoples of Spain and North Africa in the west with the peoples of the ancient lands of Egypt, Syria and Mesopotamia in the east.


Past Events

Take into account how America handled Pearl Harbour immediately following the bombing. Racial profiling allowed the wrangling of 120,313 Japanese-Americans persons during that period.


According to the Japanese American National Museum’s [5] fact sheet, Ellis Island along with several other immigration facilities was used as a detention and internment station for enemy aliens, under the authority of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. It has been estimated that as many as 8,000 aliens spent time at Ellis Island between 1941-1945. Many of them were Japanese who, though living in the U.S. for decades, were forbidden to become citizens.


Even in Canada, Japanese-Canadians were given only 24 hours notice to vacate their homes, before being sent to special sites where they were detained until proper camps were prepared for them. They were categorised as “enemy aliens” and uprooted from their homes and businesses. Their property, which included cameras, radios and watches, was confiscated for what the government considered to be “protective measures”. By November of 1942 nearly 22,000 people were displaced. This was all due to racial profiling. [6]


Consider alsoOperation Seek and Keep where Federal agents used racial profiling against Indians and Pakistanis during a high-profile investigation into immigrant smuggling in the 1990s.:


“The purpose of Operation Seek and Keep was to dismantle a criminal network that was smuggling Indian nationals into the United States for illegal employment, thus preserving jobs for authorized U.S. workers. From a law enforcement perspective, this case has been unique in that the entire smuggling organization has been broken. International and domestic smugglers have been apprehended, closing down the smuggling pipeline. Employers who placed orders for illegal aliens and the illegal aliens are still being identified and apprehended”. [7]


This operation had taken in $220 million and smuggled 12,000 people, mostly from South Asia. The operation led to the indictments of more than 30 people.


Violation of Amendment rights, media demonisation, denial of service, and an improved chance of being attacked by an angry hate monger: these “privileges” of citizenship in North America have been enjoyed by African-Americans for over a hundred years, by the Japanese-Americans during World War II, and today by Arab-Americans. Are you prepared to believe that it is for your own good? What happens when your skin colour, your God, or your headdress becomes the scapegoat of the day?

The ACLU has set up a hotline to assist those who feel they were subjected to racial or religious profiling. Their national toll-free hotline is 1-877-6-PROFILE.

© Copyright Anai Rhoads 2002. All Rights reserved. References:

[1] ACLU of Illinois Challenges Ethnic and Religious Bias in Strip Search of Muslim Woman at O’Hare International Airport January 16, 2002

[2] ACLU Sues Four Major Airlines Over Discrimination Against Passengers June 4, 2002 ACLU’s national toll-free racial profiling hotline at 1-877-6-PROFILE.

[3] FBI HCSA highlighting the 2001 Stats

[4] Anti-Discrimination Committee

[5] Japanese American National Museum’s Mass Incarceration Fact Sheet for America’s Concentration Camps: Remembering The Japanese American Experience

[6] Adachi, Ken. The Enemy That Never Was : A History of the Japanese Canadians. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Ltd., 1977.

[7] INS Fact Sheet on Operation Seek And Keep 1998

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