Archive for February, 2008

Being Profiled

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

My recent experiences traveling back from the Middle East reaffirm my belief that not only does profiling fail to protect us, but it can actually lead to the resentment and marginalization that can feed extremism and violence. I recently had the privilege of visiting Jordan and Turkey over the winter break. However, once arriving at the airport in Istanbul to return to the US via a direct flight to JFK, my pleasant vacation went sour fast.

It began as I stepped into the check-in line wearing a long brown skirt, sweater, and purple silk headscarf. Immediately, the private security hired by either the airline or the airport asked for my passport, as it does with all passengers. Then the questions began: “Where have you been? Where did you stay? Who were you with? Why did you come?” After explaining that I began my vacation in Jordan before arriving in Turkey, they began asking why I was in Jordan, where I stayed, who I stayed with, and if I had any receipts. Then, having looked at my passport, they began asking about previous trips, specifically about trips made to the United Arab Emirates (or Dubai). The security agent asked more and more personal questions, eventually even asking for my student ID card to prove I was really a student. He then took my passport and ID card and went to consult with another man and fingers were pointed my way as they spoke softly out of earshot. Then, he walked away with my passport to make copies in a backroom. Upon return, he gave me back my passport and I checked-in. However, another security agent listened over my shoulder as I spoke to the airline attendant at the desk. Then, the security agent recorded my bag check numbers onto a copy of my passport. No other passenger was given this ‘treatment’.

Having check-in, I made my way through passport control without any questions or problems. Then at 11:15am, it was time to go to the waiting lounge for my flight to New York. This meant going through one last security check (baggage x-ray and metal detector). However, before I even got to the metal detector, again, my passport was taken way and another small conference of security guards took place out of earshot. Why was I so suspicious? What had I done? I then placed my bags, coat, and shoes on the x-ray belt and walked through the metal detector—silence. I did not set of the detector and my bags did set off any alarms at the x-ray machine. I then walked five steps and a security agent asked for my passport. “She has it,” I said, pointing to a security woman a few feet away. The security agent quickly ushered me to a table for my bags to be searched by hand (despite the x-ray agents giving my bag the all clear). I thought, “Fine, other people have had to do this.” But after searching my bag and making me sign something in Turkish that they refused to translate, I began walking away with my bag and passport, but with a mustered a smile trying to understand that they were just doing their job. But they were still not satisfied. “No! You must come this way. Body search!” a female security agent said. I lost my smile. Why? I hadn’t set off the metal detector. No one else was going through this. As they took me back to a small back room, with all the other passengers staring, I felt as if I was a criminal, but what crime had I committed? In this small room, two women felt around my breasts and around my lets under my skirt. This time, I voiced my question, “Why?” “I don’t speak English!” the woman said with force. Then she demanded I sign another form in Turkish, again refusing to translate.

I understand that in comparison with other people’s experiences, this incident may seem minor. And I understand that I have traveled to countries that to the ignorant eye look dangerous. But I was pulled aside because of how I looked and where I have had the privilege of traveling. I felt humiliated and angry, but I didn’t feel any more safe.

The 9/11 hijackers didn’t have long beards or wear thobes, and the London bombers probably would have passed right through security without being profiled. I don’t advocate a security state, but if we must have security at airports, all I ask is that everyone be treated equally. After this experience, I was angry. Then I imagined if I had to always go through this every time I went through a security check, I would be even more angry and alienated, but I have this blog and the Minaret of Freedom Institute as an outlet. I can share my frustration and anger because we have the freedom to express our views, feelings, and experiences. But in many, if not all, Muslim countries, that freedom does not exist or is severely limited. Even Turkey, despite its claims of modernization, does not guarantee the freedom of expression as MFI supporter Prof. Atilla Yalya has discovered (“Turkey Jails Academic for Insulting Ataturk”).

Thus, my experience at the Istanbul airport reaffirms my belief that profiling does not keep us safe and can actually contribute to the alienation of minorities and targeted groups. Moreover, the experience also reaffirms my belief that the freedom of expression is also essential to a safe and secure society.

Sarah Swick

Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (2/19/08)

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

After the expiration of the Protect America Act, White House supporters and intelligence officials continue the politics of fear to argue for more unchecked power, but MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann questions why Bush would veto an a bill he finds necessary to stopping terrorism:

Washington Post op-ed slams the Bush administration for using the national security canard to prevent exculpating evidence from being used in detainees’ review tribunals:

Court order muzzles “wikileaks” website, allowing whistleblowers to anonymously expose dishonest and dysfunctional government and corporate practices:

Iran’s ideological vetting council makes a partial reversal of an earlier decision to ban over 800 reformist candidates from running in next month’s parliamentary elections, reinstating 251 people:

Feisal Abdul Rauf defends the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent speech to incorporate certain aspects of Islamic law into the British legal system:

Despite threats of violence and polling mismanagement turning some voters away, unofficial results project opposition parties winning handily and Musharraf supporters crushed:

Taliban fanatics increasingly target civilians to destabilize the weak Kabul government and international reconstruction efforts:

News and Analysis (2/18/08)

Monday, February 18th, 2008

Former CIA veteran Mike Scheuer, writing as if he were Osama Bin Laden, argues that poor US foreign policy is the terrorists’ number one ally:

As controversy over the First Amendment issues and anti-Palestinian media bias in Alison Weir’s speech comes to a nadir, Israel continues to steal more Palestinian land, including privately owned properties:

Despite the Qur’anic injection “Let there be no compulsion in religion” and the growing number of Muslim scholars and activists denouncing death sentences for apostasy, the debate and dangers for some people leaving Islam continue to exist:

Chaotic voting procedures and fears of more violence depress Pakistan’s parliamentary elections and stand to benefit Mushrraf’s party:

News and Analysis (2/16-17/08)

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Although Bush’s domestic spy program has now expired, many cases allow wiretapping without a warrant to go on for several months more:

Issues of free speech versus defamation of the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) lead to political saber rattling between Danish and Dutch governments on one hand and Iranians and Danish Muslims on the other:

Without economic opportunities, young people channel their frustrations into more conservative religious practices:

Pakistan stands on the brink of a new national election, but fears of violence and military interference loom over:

80 people die in a successful assassination attempt on a local Afghan militia leader, making it the country’s deadliest suicide attack:

With tension at an all time high after commemorating the deaths of Rafik Hariri and Imad Mughniyah and still no president, Lebanon’s army pledges to intervene in any political fracas:

The normally authoritarian Council of Guardians strikes down attempt by Ahmedinejad to expand his executive power within the Iranian political system:

News and Analysis (2/15/08)

Friday, February 15th, 2008

The House refuses to extend the “legalization” of warrantless wiretapping and holds two Bush aides in contempt of Congress for their alleged role in the US attorney firings…

…while Bush continues to use the “national security” canard to veto the anti-waterboarding bill, stymie an investigation into Boeing’s involvement in torture flights and limit judges’ ability to scrutinize evidence against Gitmo detainees:

An unembedded British journalist looks at the fragile calm in Baghdad and finds the surge has not produced any long-term “stability”:

Unsatisfied with their failed attempt to shut down the Saudi Islamic Academy, neo-cons  encroach on the First Amendment as a Congressman puts pressure on a Catholic university in a dangerous extension of their anti-Saudi witch-hunt:

News and Analysis (2/14/08)

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

After yesterday’s blitzkrieg on liberty and the rule of law, Congress and civil society begin a counteroffensive as the House rejects an extension of the domestic spying program, leading some to believe the temporary law may lapse…

… meanwhile the Senate passes a ban on waterboarding and other torture techniques as stipulated in the US Army field manual…

…and civilian defense lawyers slam the Gitmo military commissions as “tainted by torture”:

Taliban recklessness and democratic alternatives, not “US aid nor military muscle” are rolling back support for the Pakistan Taliban supporters:

The Defense Dept. unrolls plan to crackdown on contract fraud, except in Afghanistan and Iraq:

After the assassination of Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah states he is ready for an “open war” with Israel:

In a gross miscarriage of justice, international human rights organizations appeal to Saudi Arabia to prevent the execution of an illiterate woman accused of witchcraft:

The Greenwich Library has reversed its decision to cancel talks on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict by Alison Weir, a speaker at last year’s MFI annual dinner:

News and Analysis (2/13/08)

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

The administration, with Congressional and Judicial rubberstamping, continues its blitzkrieg against civil liberties and the rule of law by approving a new domestic spying granting telecoms legal immunity and less Fourth Amendment protections…

…continuing to defend the “legality” of waterboarding…

…continuing to spin its Gitmo Kangaroo court military commissions as legitimate…

…and awarding a $1 billion contract to build the world’s largest biometric database that can impact privacy even though its technologies aren’t proven safe or effective:

In a major blow to Hezbollah, its military operations head, Imad Mughniyah, was assassinated in Damascus, with possible Israeli involvement:

Except Qatar, Arab League members approve new media restrictions under the guise of “‘not offend[ing] the leaders or national and religious symbols’ of Arab countries”:

Pakistan’s feudalism continue as next generation of its wealthy scion families take the reins of politics:

News and Analysis (2/12/08)

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Big Brother seeks unprecedented power to strip away Americans’ privacy and start foreign imperial adventures, but is incapable of finishing background checks before granting permanent residency:

Despite the fact that 350 times as many Palestinians as Israelis have been killed in the past year demonstrates that the Palesinians have no Israeli partner for peace, Hamas continues to call for a long-term ceasefire:

New York Times editorial slams the Bush administration for failing to succeed in Afghanistan due to its adventurism in Iraq, meanwhile a majority of Canadians are getting fed up with the heavy losses in Afghanistan and seeing little gain for it:

“…this winter, the forces of war, nature, economic crisis and regional tension have converged with a vengeance on this long-suffering populace…”

Well-intentioned statement on Islamic law in Britain from the Archbishop of Canterbury backfires, triggering negative reactions from non-Muslim and Muslim Britons alike:

News and Analysis (2/11/08)

Monday, February 11th, 2008

The US finally decides to try alleged 9/11 planners, but seeks to do so through its secretive kangaroo court system at Gitmo:

The Army muzzles an unclassified RAND report detailing the failures of its occupation in Iraq, while Defense Secretary Gates supports extending the “surge”:

Russia writes off $12 billion in Iraqi debt in exchange for access to invest $4 billion in Iraq’s oil fields:

Turkey finally lifts part of the hijab ban, but Turkish columnists and academics say deeper reforms to strengthen democratization and EU entry must be pursued:

Thomas Erdbrink of the Washington Post Foreign Service reports that the clerical alumni of the Iranian Revolution are the moderates, now being pushed aside by fanatics with no religious credentials:
Iran’s Clerical Old Guard Being Pushed Aside (Washington Post)

In order to compensate for his plummeting ratings, Musharraf seeks to intimidate Pakistani opposition parties ahead of upcoming polls to maintain his electoral viability:

News and Analysis (2/9-10/08)

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

CATO scholar Timothy Lee explains why the Protect America Act will leave itself open to abuses of privacy, while Ryan Singel analyzes the challenges of declaring telecom legal immunity unconstitutional:

Turkish parliament cedes to university women the choice the state had arrogated to itself:

Not satisfied to “cede the ground to radicals”, Afghanistan works to promote a new system of religious schools that blend religious studies with modern subjects like math and science:

Egypt takes a small, but significant step toward upholding the Qur’anic command of “Let there be no compulsion in religion…,” but still has a long way to go:

U.S. military finds a document that details Iraqi Muslim victories over al-Qaida hirabis:

Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt raises “the spectre of another civil war“: