Exclusive to The Middle East Online . . . Racial profiling by Sharif Nashashibi

frau_mit_burka_dapd

Racial profiling of Middle Easterners has been on the rise particularly since 9/11, and even more so recently in light of the fight against the Islamic State. Authorities will seldom acknowledge that they partake in this practice, but statistics, studies and reports indicate that it is rife.

Us Middle Easterners know the drill at airports. We get pulled aside, told it is a “random” check, then questioned exclusively about our Middle Eastern background and our travels to the region. All too often, we are not spoken to respectfully – one would think that politeness toward someone being racially profiled would not be too much to expect.

I have endured such treatment so many times in the US that I refuse to travel there anymore. However, I was particularly saddened to experience this recently for the first time in Britain, my home country. Upon getting off a plane from Jordan at Heathrow, we were immediately greeted by numerous armed police and sniffer dogs. Of course, only Middle Easterners (or those who looked it) were being stopped.

My brother and I were both flagged, me twice – the second policewoman saw that I had already been flagged and cleared just a few feet away from her. The policeman questioning my brother snapped at him simply for asking if there was a problem. After a tense to and fro, the policeman said it was because of “the situation in the Middle East.”

We were made to feel like potential threats in our own country, in public, for no apparent reason. What a welcome home. A sympathetic Heathrow employee later told me that this was becoming increasingly commonplace at the airport.

Racial profiling of Middle Easterners has been on the rise particularly since 9/11, and even more so recently in light of the fight against the Islamic State. Authorities will seldom acknowledge that they partake in this practice, but statistics, studies and reports indicate that it is rife.

Though many Middle Easterners and Muslims grudgingly accept this as an unfortunate part of life, it is never justified. People who argue that it is typically come from communities that are highly unlikely to ever be subjected to it. One should be viewed with suspicion because of one’s actions or behaviour, not colour, race, religion or nationality. This seems too obvious to have to point out time and again. What happened to being innocent until proven guilty?

Racial profiling is not only morally wrong, but countless independent, scientific studies have shown that it does not work, and is no more effective than random profiling. In the US, where racial profiling is widespread, it is also unconstitutional.

It perpetuates negative stereotypes, breeds resentment and alienation, and harms community relations. The result is the potential for creating more extremism rather than tackling it. Racial profiling is also counter-productive in terms of governmental efforts to work with minorities – why would they cooperate when they are being targeted?

It does not take into account that jihadist groups are increasingly recruiting people who do not fit established stereotypes, which are themselves ridiculous, implying that all Middle Easterners and Muslims look alike. One of numerous examples is Colleen Larose, self-named Jihad Jane – a white American woman sentenced in January to 10 years in prison for terrorism-related crimes.

The Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Colbert King summed it up nicely: “You can’t fight terrorism with racism.”

This entry was posted in Current Affairs, Exclusive to the Website. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*