Minority Majority

conservatism, Europe, Middle East, Terrorism

Whenever I hear someone advocate racial profiling as part of national security — singling out people who look Middle Eastern for special attention — I think of the 1987 film “Born in East L.A.”

In this film Cheech Marin (who was also the writer and director) plays Rudy, a native-born east Angeleno who got caught in an INS raid without his wallet (and ID) and deported to Mexico. Denied re-entry to the U.S., Rudy spends most of the film scheming to get himself smuggled across the border, and getting mixed up with some con artists, hustlers, and the inevitable pretty girl along the way. If you’ve never seen it, rent it sometime; it’s a hoot.

Anyway, in one particularly brilliant segment Rudy is given the task of teaching English to a group of men planning to enter the U.S. illegally. The men turn out to be Chinese. Instead of English, Rudy teaches them how to pass for Latinos — how to walk, dress, watch girls, etc. And the funny thing is that it works; the Chinese fugitives are transformed into completely believable Latinos.

Years ago a Chicano friend (whose grandmother was Huichol) complained he often was mistaken for an east Indian by east Indians. And a Filipino co-worker once showed me a photograph of himself costumed in a Mongol-style helmet and chain mail. You would have sworn he was Genghis Khan.

Remember Jean Charles de Menezes? He was the Brazilian shot and killed on July 7 last year because London police mistook him for a Middle Eastern terrorist.

I bring this up because today the righties are cheering the mostly British passengers of Monarch Airlines Flight ZB 613 — departing Malaga, Spain, and flying to Manchester, UK — who mutinied because two (presumed) Arabic men were boarding. Passengers walked off the plane or refused to board entirely. Police eventually removed the two men so that the flight could take off (three hours late) without them. A security sweep of the plane found nothing amiss, and the two men eventually were cleared by security and flown to Manchester in another plane.

Captain Ed:

The incident shows that citizens will start imposing their own solutions to flight safety in the absence of demonstrably intelligent security while attempts at attacks continue … the unwillingness of the governments in both the UK and the US to provide systems of screening that instill confidence in the flying public has led to these incidents. They will continue and increase while screening systems insist on playing political correctness games instead of focusing on real threats as the Israelis have done for decades.

Other righties point out that the passengers were alarmed by the two men’s behavior, not their race, which was the same thing the London police said last year about Jean Charles de Menezes. This odd behavior was that they were speaking a foreign language (presumed Arabic, but the Daily Mail doesn’t say for sure) and wearing leather jackets in summer (London police also claimed Jean Charles de Menezes was wearing an “unseasonably thick jacket,” like the one I wish I had when I was riding around London on the top deck of a sightseeing bus last August; I was freezing). And the two guys were checking their watches. Like no law-abiding citizen ever checks his watch while waiting to board a plane.

So to those passengers who claim they were judging the men entirely by their behavior, I say: Sure you were.

A few days ago I wrote some posts about James Fallows’s new article about U.S. security in the current issue of Atlantic Online, in which he wrote:

“The patriotism of the American Muslim community has been grossly underreported,” says Marc Sageman, who has studied the process by which people decide to join or leave terrorist networks. According to Daniel Benjamin, a former official on the National Security Council and coauthor of The Next Attack, Muslims in America “have been our first line of defense.” Even though many have been “unnerved by a law-enforcement approach that might have been inevitable but was still disturbing,” the community has been “pretty much immune to the jihadist virus.”

Something about the Arab and Muslim immigrants who have come to America, or about their absorption here, has made them basically similar to other well-assimilated American ethnic groups—and basically different from the estranged Muslim underclass of much of Europe. … most measures of Muslim disaffection or upheaval in Europe—arrests, riots, violence based on religion—show it to be ten to fifty times worse than here.

See also this article in the National Catholic Reporter of January 14, 2005, that says American Muslims are remarkably law-abiding and are not providing a base of support for jihadists.

Muslims in Europe are another matter. Back to James Fallows:

The difference between the European and American assimilation of Muslims becomes most apparent in the second generation, when American Muslims are culturally and economically Americanized and many European Muslims often develop a sharper sense of alienation. “If you ask a second-generation American Muslim,” says Robert Leiken, author of Bearers of Global Jihad: Immigration and National Security After 9/11, “he will say, ‘I’m an American and a Muslim.’ A second-generation Turk in Germany is a Turk, and a French Moroccan doesn’t know what he is.”

Alex Massie writes for The New Republic online:

The challenge of assimilation in Great Britain is daunting. A recent opinion survey of Muslims carried out by Channel 4 News concluded that just 44 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds feel Britain is their country, and 51 percent of them believe September 11 was the result of an American-Israeli conspiracy. Furthermore, 30 percent of British Muslims would like to live under sharia law, and 28 percent would like Great Britain to become an Islamic state. These findings, alas, cannot be considered the result of a rogue poll. A Pew Research Center survey this year found that 81 percent of British Muslims consider themselves Muslim first and British second. As Timothy Garton Ash noted in a prescient piece in Thursday’s Guardian, “This is a higher proportion than in Jordan, Egypt or Turkey, and exceeded only by that in Pakistan (87%).” No wonder the Channel 4 pollsters concluded that nearly one in ten British Muslims “can be classified as ‘Hardcore Islamists’ who are unconcerned by trifles like freedom of speech.”

What’s baffling about the alienation of British Muslims is that the British government has done more than most European governments to help Muslims assimilate. Further, British Muslims enjoy greater economic and educational opportunity than in some other European countries. Yet, as noted in the Guardian article, not only are British Muslims alienated, young British Muslims born in Britain seem more alienated than their immigrant parents.

The writer of the Guardian article, Timothy Garton Ash, speculates that, maybe, it has something to do with the fact that most British Muslims trace their origins to Pakistan. Maybe it’s Tony Blair’s support for George Bush. Maybe it’s the libidinous nature of British society (more so than the rest of Europe?). Maybe it’s all of those factors.

What Ash doesn’t say, but which the killing of Mr. de Menezes and the mutiny on Flight 613 reveal, is that British Muslims may be swimming against a strong but unacknowledged current of bigotry. Go here for more examples. The Brits may have entered into an unfortunate spiral in which terrorist acts of a small minority of Muslims incite bigoted reactions from “native” Brits, which in turn causes British Muslim youth to feel more alienated and more likely to be radicalized.

I say that if we listen to the hysterics and hate-mongering from the Right, we could find ourselves traveling down that same spiral.

One hears calls for “Israeli-style profiling.” I’m no expert, but it’s my understanding that Israeli-style profiling is more psychological profiling than ethnic profiling. According to this guy:

El Al’s passenger screening system, established in the early 1970s, relies on psychological profiling techniques backed up with high-technology equipment. This system has been highly effective: the last successful hijacking of an El Al jet was in 1968, when Palestinian terrorists diverted a flight from Rome to Algiers.34 Whereas the United States gives priority to screening baggage rather than people, Israel’s security model aims at ferreting out individuals with terrorist intentions. This profiling process relies on access to intelligence and careful observation of would-be passengers.

Note that these observations are made by people trained to catch revealing behaviors; not by bigoted passengers who panic when a man speaks Arabic (maybe) and checks his watch. And it would be pretty futile to single out ethnic Middle Easterners when you’re in the Middle East, I suspect.

I also agree with this blogger:

Israeli profiling is the very last line of defense. The first line of defense is a well-run intelligence service that has been penetrating Palestinian militant groups for years. Second is a series of checkpoints, roadblocks, and a wall. Finally, there’s a broad set of people trained to look for suicide bombers.

The blogger is not confident that U.S. airport personnel would be competent to carry out psychological profiling, and profiling done by improperly trained people is nothing but “security theater.” There are a great many other things we should be doing to improve airport security, he says, before we start profiling.

Every now and then some rightie will wonder why New York subway security doesn’t single out Middle Eastern persons for backpack searches. I always want to take the rightie by the hand and gently lead him to, say, some high-traffic spot in the Union Square subway station, and tell him to point out all the subway passengers who might be Middle Eastern. Eventually it should dawn even on the densest of righties that a majority of the thousands of people he sees might be Middle Eastern. It would be a lot easier to single out those passengers who definitely are not Middle Eastern, and even then he most likely would make some mistakes.

And if your purpose is to identify Muslims, don’t forget there are African Muslims and Asian Muslims, and the occasional person of European ancestry who converts to Islam.

If airport and other security were to put people wearing Muslim dress through special security, it wouldn’t take long for the enterprising terrorist to figure out how to dress and act so as not to arouse suspicion that he is Muslim. He might even rent “Born in East L.A.” and get tips on passing as Latino. If Chinese can do it, becoming Latinized should be a snap for a Pakistani.

Update: See Glenn Greenwald.

The blame lies not with those who entertain such fears, but with those who allow those fears to govern their conduct, and more so, those who purposely stoke and exaggerate those fears due either to their own fears and/or because doing so is to their advantage.

Update update: See also Scott Lemieux.

Shorter various blogospheric wingnuts: the government’s appalling lack of racism gives people no recourse but to take racism into their own hands.

Also also: Dave Johnson.

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  1. Pablo  •  Aug 20, 2006 @10:58 am

    The Brits may have entered into an unfortunately spiral in which terrorist acts of a small minority of Muslims incite bigoted reactions from “native” Brits, which in turn causes British Muslim youth to feel more alienated and more likely to be radicalized.

    Any evidence whatsoever for this causation? Is there any responsibility for the Muslims for their failure to assimilate? Do they not bear more responsibility to accomodate the society than the society has to accomodate them?

    Do you think it’s justifiable for young Muslims to radicalize due to a minority of Brits casting a baleful eye at them? Does the reality of exploding Muslims not play a substantial role in this dynamic?

  2. maha  •  Aug 20, 2006 @11:10 am

    Any evidence whatsoever for this causation?

    Does human nature throughout space and time work for you?

    Is there any responsibility for the Muslims for their failure to assimilate?

    Sure, but it goes both ways. Some exceptional young people who grow up in a hostile environment might, with great strength of will, manage not to be radicalized by it, but your average kid with the average amount of teenage angst will not be so determined.

    Does the reality of exploding Muslims not play a substantial role in this dynamic?

    Yes, I said so in the post. Can’t you read? It’s a two-way phenomenon creating escalating bigotry. Going both ways. A hates B, so B retaliates, so A hates B even more and retaliates against B, who now hates A even more and retaliates, etc. Human societies have been falling into the same trap since humans left the caves. Probably went on in the caves, too, come to think of it.

  3. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 20, 2006 @11:21 am

    The right is looking to put the “race” in “racial” profiling this year. That is all that they have to run on in ’06. This year’s elections will be about race. Black’s, Hispanic’s and Muslim’s are the threat. “The white’s must unite!”

    I’m from NYC, and I agree with you. Take a rightie to Grand Central Station. They would freak out! I can hear them now. “JESUS! Spic’s, nigger’s, kikes, fag’s, dyke’s, chink’s, gook’s, rooskie’s, commie’s, towel-head’s. THEY’RE EVERYWHERE YA LOOK!!! My God, what are we going to do about it!”

    Yeah, and they forget that this the very reason that there is an America

    Remember? Here’s what made this country great:
    “The New Colossus”
    by Emma Lazarus

    “Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
    “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    That’s all of us who are not of Native American descent. All of us, righties. Yes, ALL of US!!! U.S.

    I cry everytime I read that. My parents came to America from Russia via Hitler’s camps. They don’t recognize this country anymore.

    Now instead of the torch of freedom, you craven coward’s want to shine the flashlight of fear in people’s eye’s? By the way, righties, if you don’t recognize the poem, it’s what’s written in the Statue of LIBERTY. Liberty? Remember that word?

    How did this country get this stupid so fast?

    Oh, yeah, the Right Wing Noise Machine. We need to do everything we can to make media reform our top priority when we win!

  4. maha  •  Aug 20, 2006 @11:31 am

    Re: “JESUS! Spic’s, nigger’s, kikes, fag’s, dyke’s, chink’s, gook’s, rooskie’s, commie’s, towel-head’s. THEY’RE EVERYWHERE YA LOOK!!!”

    My Grandpa went through New York City in 1918, right before he shipped out to France to fight Kaiser Wilhelm, and he wrote a letter home saying pretty much the same thing. Except maybe for the dykes. :-) He was a good man; he’d just never been exposed to anyone other than hillbillies before. But people these days don’t have the same excuse.

  5. Lynne  •  Aug 20, 2006 @11:31 am

    Absorbing post, Barbara. I imagine the Statue of Liberty will come down any time now.

  6. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 20, 2006 @11:57 am

    I apologize for the derogatory terms I used.
    I hate them as much as anyone. I speak Russian because my parent’s came here from the USSR via Hitler’s camps. It was my first language. I had to live with “Commie” and “Red” throughout the ’60’s and early ’70’s of my youth whenever anyone heard me speaking it.
    But, the reality is that those horrible word’s are out there and we all hear them. Less so, than when I was young. But, they’re still out there.
    The “less so,” however, may be a hopeful sign. At least, most people aren’t as vocally and overtly racist and biased as they used to be.
    Of course, the righties have cleverly changed the language of racism over the years. “Welfare Queen’s,” and all that…
    The danger is, that with a few a more years of rightie control, all bet’s are off…
    Sadly, an Apartheid Amerika is neither beyond the realm of the imagination, nor the wishes of the many.

  7. Jazz  •  Aug 20, 2006 @12:02 pm

    Nice job, Maha. But what they are really looking for when cheering this type of “mutiny” is a chance to endorse vigilantism.

  8. Swami  •  Aug 20, 2006 @12:03 pm

    Now instead of the torch of freedom, you craven coward’s want to shine the flashlight of fear in people’s eye’s?


  9. maha  •  Aug 20, 2006 @1:47 pm

    c u n d gulag — No need to apologize. I know what you were sayin’.

  10. Cossack  •  Aug 20, 2006 @1:57 pm

    Dear Maha,

    I might add that our ‘allies’ the fabled ‘Bosniaks’ (rhymes with ‘maniacs’) are European to all outward appearances…and they are MUSLIM (gasp, horrors!). It is also well to note that our creature, Osama, sent many a mujahadeen to Bosnia to slaughter a Christian for Allah. Sigh! Guess people are really more addicted to their inborn racism and preconceptions than they are to true questions of ‘security’. “The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either.” – Benjamin Franklin

  11. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 20, 2006 @2:22 pm

    I agree with what you wrote, and have posted that BF quote all over the place in the last couple of year’s.
    BTW, I’m of Ukrainian decent too, as I assume you are. On my Dad’s side. I wanted to use “Cossack” at first, but, because my father’s father died in a gulag, I chose “c u n d gulag.” Beside’s, I saw that “Cossack” was already taken on the blog’s and doing a good job.
    Keep up the good work!

  12. justme  •  Aug 20, 2006 @3:02 pm

    Sometimes I think that I am dumb but everytime some one links to something captain ed wrote I feel so much better about myself, Thanks captain ed.My sigh of happiness is short lived by the terror I feel knowing there are REALLY folks out there a few fries short of a happy meal.Now, thanks to captain ed and other rightie bloggers they have spokesidiots….wonderful!

    Lets, just for a minute,forget about race.What these rightie bloggers are cheeering is equal to yelling fire in a crowded theater when there was none.

    I don’t know the details of the story,but I guess last week a older American lady freaked out on a plane(it happens)…it is my understanding that she was so freaked out she had an accident in the aisle…and that she was undergoing some kind of a panic attack.Someone said she mentioned Al qada and F-16’s were scrambled…
    Its a wonder things like this are not happening every single day.All righties have been spoon fed for the past 6 years is fear..then you get one who , as I said before, is a few fries short of a happy meal and put them on a plane…what do we expect will happen?How is what this lady did any different from what a group of people did?More people joined the insanity?
    Those people Hi- Jacked a plane….think about it.In the age of terror, consider this- you get on a plane…others get on the plane too , but then demand to get off…..RED FLAG people!!!!!HELLO??? My blood pressure would go thru the roof….I would be suspect of those folks getting off in a major way.Don’t they arrest people for things like that???Can you board a plane , then unboard before take off?I find their conduct disturbing on so many levels.
    And now on to the race issue.It is clear, we must attack the British(snark)…they are breeding and harboring terrorists and future terrorists in a major way(that part is serious)..IMHO actions like this that are cheered are a sad excuse to make bigotry acceptable.. I feel so sorry for future generations. They are going to spend lifetimes cleaning up this mess.
    And perhaps meantime bedwetting righties should buy every seat on the plane if they want to decide who can fly or not or stay home.The funny part is they claim to be christians yet they have no faith in God and did you ever notice how hard they try to avoid heaven?Word to the righties, if it is your time , getting off the plane won’t save you,,, wrap yourself in duct tape and plastic and wait in your safe rooms for the endtimes.

  13. Mnemosyne  •  Aug 20, 2006 @3:11 pm

    Is there any responsibility for the Muslims for their failure to assimilate?

    I see lots of Muslims here in Los Angeles who, by your measure, have “failed to assimilate” since the women wear headscarves or even chadors while going about their daily business.

    And yet Los Angeles is not a hotbed of extremist Muslim activity. Quite to the contrary, many of these observant Muslims are also proud American citizens who prominently display the American flag at their homes and businesses, along with the flag of their country of origin.

    Can you wrap your head around that, or has it exploded from the cognitive dissonance yet?

  14. DavidByron  •  Aug 20, 2006 @4:07 pm

    The British tourists did not delay the flight. The captain of the plane made the decision. It was his decision soley that caused the delay. We are not told the nationality of the captain. We are not told whether his decision was influenced by any passengers.

    Unless you are the Borg assimilation is NOT a positive thing. Britain is not like America where patriotism is mandatory. I would not be surprised to hear that most christians in Britain consider themselves christians first and British second — just as Jesus commands in the bible. British people don’t consider being British to be all that. That’s a good thing. It’s neither surprising nor a bad thing that people who are given more freedom, assimilate less not more.

  15. DavidByron  •  Aug 20, 2006 @4:26 pm


    Here’s a similar story. Muslim man praying was kicked off an airplane along with his two professional colleagues (medical conference). This was in the US returning to Canada. The airline refused to put them on a different flight and they had to all buy new tickets!

  16. Chief  •  Aug 20, 2006 @4:31 pm


    Mrs. Chief had a heart attack last May. In the middle of the night a Pakistani (heritage), Muslim, cardiologist saved her life, putting in 2 stents.

    The same gentleman will do cardiac cath on me on Wed, 23 Aug.

  17. It’s a good post. But please let’s remember, while we talk of how easy it would be to “Latinize” people (and I know it was tongue-in-cheek) that Cheech Marin was in a comedy movie acting out a script he wrote in which a character was teaching a stereotype of an urbanized and specific type of “Latino.”

    I’m sure that’s what you meant, and you know, you are just using shorthand to get to the point strongly and quickly. But I hate to further stereotyped thinking in a post that argues against stereotyping. :)

  18. maha  •  Aug 20, 2006 @4:59 pm

    The British tourists did not delay the flight. The captain of the plane made the decision.

    Of course he made the decision, but my reading of the situation is that the passenger revolt instigated the decision.

    We are not told whether his decision was influenced by any passengers.

    The passengers delayed the flight for three hours, then the captain decided to take off without the two Muslim men. I’d say that indicates influence.

    Unless you are the Borg assimilation is NOT a positive thing.

    To be assimilated in this sense means to accept a national identity; to feel that one is part of a particular nation; to call it home. It doesn’t mean handing over your individual identity. Most of us have grown several layers of identity, all of which are equally valid.

    British people don’t consider being British to be all that.

    British people have a whole patchwork quilt of national identities, also, as I explained here.

    It’s neither surprising nor a bad thing that people who are given more freedom, assimilate less not more.

    I’m not sure that’s true. I don’t think we’re using the word “assimilate” to mean the same thing.

  19. maha  •  Aug 20, 2006 @5:01 pm

    This was in the US returning to Canada.

    This kind of crap has got to stop.

  20. maha  •  Aug 20, 2006 @5:09 pm

    Chief — I hope Mrs. Chief is well and that you have a quick recovery from the upcoming procedure!

  21. maha  •  Aug 20, 2006 @5:32 pm

    Cheech Marin was in a comedy movie acting out a script he wrote in which a character was teaching a stereotype of an urbanized and specific type of “Latino.”

    Yes, of course, and I should have made that clearer. But what was impressive to me was that the Chinese fugitives actually looked Latino. When the INS agents didn’t realize that the guys were the Chinese men they were looking for, it was believable. To me, anyway.

    A long time ago I read a sociological study of race in Peru. As I remember, there were three racial castes — “Spanish,” or people who were mostly European; “Indian,” and “mestizo.” But the distinction between Indians and mestizos was less racial than cultural. An ethnic Indian who wore western clothing and spoke good Spanish was considered mestizo. But someone part-European who spoke Quechua and wore Indian clothes was Indian. The authors provided some photographs of people from the same family, some of whom were Indian and some mestizo, and if you didn’t look closely you might not have guessed they were related at all. It was fascinating. The point being, of course, that looks are way deceiving.

  22. the exile  •  Aug 20, 2006 @5:50 pm

    I’m a little bit inclined to agree with those who primarily blame the airline. This was a Malaga-Manchester flight, which says just about everything. A planeload of “Coronation-Street-in-Torremolinos” cheap package tour yahoos who easily could have conversed in Spanish with the men in question if a single one of those yahoos (just back from their vacation in Al Andalus) had been able to speak a word of Spanish!

  23. erinyes  •  Aug 20, 2006 @7:08 pm

    As usual, good post and insightful/interesting comments.
    Here are several of my thoughts:
    Many years ago, on a trip to Indonesia (Bali and Java) I was struck by the fact that many of the native people looked like people I had seen on trips to Mexico. Java is predominately Muslim, while the Balinese are mostly Hindu.How would you profile them?
    In Central FL, there is a very large Puerto Rican population. A rather large segment of that population will tell you they are Puerto Rican first and Americans second, even though Puerto Ricans are Americans ( a fact many of our local “rednecks” can’t seem to grasp).That segment has no intention of assimilating, they are very proud of their roots, and that’s that.I have met Puerto Ricans that look Middle Eastern.How would you profile them?
    Shortly after the Bali bombing, I emailed the director of tourism in Jakarta expressing my condolescenses for the Indonesians killed and injured in the attack. He thanked me and said there are extremists in his country that mainstream indonesians fear.
    Muslim on Muslim violence took a huge toll on innocent civilians in Algeria and Morocco in particular in the past, no one wants that horror in their country.
    I think going overboard on the profiling would be a big mistake,
    there is no doubt a segment of our population that would like to require Muslims to wear a red crescent on their lapels to aid in identifing them as potential terrorists. That didn’t go over very well when Jews were required to wear the star of David on their persons, we don’t want to go that way again.
    I don’t fear American Muslims, but I do fear for them. Another attack on the scale of 9/11 would push some Americans over the edge, I shudder to think what could happen.
    I don’t believe the offical 9/11 story, there are too many missing pieces, too many officals bailed out (considering we are in a generational war on terror). Until the Anthrax attack is at least addressed again, I’m convinced there is something very sinister going on behind the scene.
    I’ve really enjoyed your blog this week Maha, comments from Swami and c u n d gulag have added to the enjoyment, allowing me to goof a bit also.We are in some strange times, your blog allows me to vent a bit, thanks for that.
    I hope the best for Mr. & Mrs Chief.
    If you get a chance, check out “The Power of Nightmares”, it’s a three part BBC series available on line, I just finished part 2.
    Between the extremists of the Muslim and Neocon cultists we do have our work cut out for us, they are both dangerous and surprisingly similar, although on opposite ends of the spectrum.

  24. Swami  •  Aug 20, 2006 @9:23 pm

    Captian Ed has got it going on. The dude is righteous. I wish my mind had the capacity to analyze as profoundly has his does. You can’t get past him..he’s just too alert. That’s what I admire.

  25. Cossack  •  Aug 20, 2006 @10:13 pm

    c u n d gulag,

    Thank you for the kind words. Yes, I’m also of Ukranian descent (as well as Russian, a little actual Cossack and Serbian thrown in).

    Ol Ben said many things of merit and, I fear, we have forsaken the wisdom of our founders (Franklin, Jefferson, Madison and Washington) to our detriment.

  26. margaret  •  Aug 20, 2006 @10:21 pm

    The British are racists and have been for their entire colonialist history. As evidence, when traveling to England via the Orient Express with my friend, an American plastic surgeon of Pakistani origin. When we arrived by ferry, before we entered the country, an official examined our passports, stamping them, after viewing. This was before we left the ship. My friend’s U.S. passport was not stamped. When we were told to pass through customs, he was stopped because his passport was not stamped. I intervened, and argued that it was a deliberate oversight, as there was no reason for it not to be stamped. The official on the ferry had looked at my friend with contempt and passed him over. Because of my earnest protest, he was allowed to enter the country. Then, at the Ritz Hotel [the Ritz, mind you!] he was treated with contempt by the receptionist, although he was well-dressed in an Italian suit and very dignified. He did not protest the sorry behavior, even when they lied and told him he would have to take a cab to Gaylord’s: it was just around the block, in very short walking distance! He acted resigned, as this kind of treatment was what he, as a Pakistani had expected to encounter in England. I was infuriated, however, and I will never go to England, again. None of this story about the airplane incident surpises me.

  27. maha  •  Aug 21, 2006 @6:20 am

    The British are racists and have been for their entire colonialist history.

    I doubt they’re any worse than other Europeans, large numbers of Americans, and in fact just about any racially homogenous society.

  28. Court Jester  •  Aug 21, 2006 @1:00 pm

    re: the poll in the Alex Massie/NRO article.

    It appears to be a chicken/egg situation. Which comes first: alienation or radicalization? I know that alienated people seem to crave the identity that radical movements offer; but radical movements also work to create and nuture a deep sense of alienation – it’s a classic technique of cults everywhere. If 51% of 18-24 yr old Muslims believe 9/11 to be a “Zionist” conspiracy, then they are already under the thrall of radical Islam.

    It’s not clear from the article if the other stats are from the same study, or a different one, since they don’t mention age groups; but I find it deeply disturbing that “30% of British Muslims” want to live under Sharia law. My gut tells me that this is more indicative of the beliefs of the parents of the previously mention 18-24 yr olds. I’d like to see a breakdown of that figure by age AND gender.

    I do think that the general Muslim community has been very helpful in reporting radical behavior; I wish they got better press and more credit. The now questionable Canadian bomb plot was detected with the help of the Toronto Muslim community, and I believe that the London Muslim community also helped out in the UK plot. We need to encourage the Muslim community to continue their efforts, and we should support and publicize their desire to root out and address radical groups in their mosques.

  29. zain  •  Aug 21, 2006 @1:53 pm

    Brilliant Maha.

    Thank you

  30. Theron  •  Aug 21, 2006 @2:57 pm

    It’s so easy to sign someone else’s rights, someone else’s dignity away. I would remind the Capitan Eds of the world that the second worst act of terrorism in recent U.S. history was carried out by Timothy McVeigh – a white rightwinger who frequented gun shows. So, here’s the deal – if “Muslim-looking” men are going to be subjected to special screening, so too should most right-wing males in America. Liberals, of course, would get to use the express lane.

  31. ilyas  •  Aug 21, 2006 @3:09 pm

    A very observant and incisive post, as a British muslim even I’ve learned a lot. I would just like to make a few points.

    The majority of young muslims are assimiliated into British culture, and much more so than our parent ever were. The evidence (and you will have to trust me somewhat) is my own experience. Wherever I go, even after 7/7, I don’t feel any fear, animosity or hate. Why? Mostly there is a direct cause and effect occuring. The cause British foreign policy, Tony Blair’s poodle lke support for Bush. Now 99.9% of muslims in the UK don’t wish to blow themselevs up or undergo matyrdom missions, but crucially some do, and some have, and some even be planning. The effect was disaffected youths, fuelled by modern communications seeing thousands of people dying in the front rooms. When the term WAR ON TERROR was used, the fuse was lit, remember who used that term?

    I just came back from a run. I passed 4 or 5 cricket matches on my route. Many teams had British asains/muslims indians bangladeshis playing for them. Everytime I hear some bad news and read the TOSH put in the Daily Mail, I rememeber moments like these which give the true picture of assimilation and integration not the political, social bias that is peddled these days.

  32. maha  •  Aug 21, 2006 @4:25 pm

    ilyas, Thanks for writing. Feel free to drop by any time and give us your point of view. I haven’t spent enough time in Britain to say that I understand Britain, so it’s good to hear from someone with a better perspective.

  33. Pepper  •  Aug 21, 2006 @7:10 pm

    Here is a similar story, provided by “Democracy Now!” http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/08/21/1348224

    This is a great post, and I am glad to have read it along with the one I have suggested. Thank you.

  34. Jen Morris  •  Aug 22, 2006 @12:26 am

    The observation above that the language could well have been Spanish–not that many tourists would necessarily recognize it–strikes a chord. When I heard this news story, my first reaction was to doubt that those passengers knew enough linguistics or languages to distinguish Arabic–of which there are several major variants, anyway–from any other language that sounded strange to them because it wasn’t the Queen’s English or a dialect thereof. Lebanese is not an Arabic language, for example, even though nowadays it is often written in Arabic script. Or, in some areas where Islam is the predominant religion, people speak Farsi even if they must learn classical Arabic to recite the Qu’ran. Then again, when a children’s magazine I subscribe to, in one of the languages of southern India and written in Brahmin script, disappeared in the post every so often, only the cover arriving, one possibility that occurred to me, aside from someone’s purloining it, was that someone in Homeland Security might have thought in ignorance that this harmless publication surely must be a terrorist comic in Arabic (= any unusual writing) and had confiscated it! [Naturally, the feds usually don't tell the person under surveillance, and the U.S. databases notoriously are full of wrongful suspicions of Quakers, grannies, law-abiding peace protesters, etc. So it didn't seem wise to lodge a complaint with the USPS, either.]

  35. Sammy Lee  •  Aug 22, 2006 @4:22 am

    “The Brits may have entered into an unfortunately spiral in which terrorist acts of a small minority of Muslims incite bigoted reactions from “native” Brits, which in turn causes British Muslim youth to feel more alienated and more likely to be radicalized.”

    I call BS on this.

    British muslims are largely treated with respect and tolerance. Certainly more so than in France Germany or the Netherlands.

    I’m libertarian and left wing and have lived in the inner city in Central England for 10 years. My understamding of multicultural Britain has evolved in this time. Of course cultural tolerance places demands on the “host” population and the British have not always met these demands as well as they might. But there is a flip side, cultural tolerance is a two way street. The requirements of multiculturalism are that minority populations show a reciprocal respect and tolerance for others in their society. I believe that this responsibility has largely been shirked by a pakistani community that is marred by nepotism, corruption, chauvinism, racism and religious intolerance. These are not typical of wider British society nor other British ethnic groups. Perhaps these things are a reaction in some part to social deprivation and to external pressures like racism – but (!) to attribute all of these things to the behaviour of the “host” community devalues migrants and the vital role have to play in social integration.

    Britain is long over due a really honest discourse about what multi-culturalism really means. All too often people on the right decry its failiure and those on the left simply bury their heads in the sand. In truth if the concept is to survive it requires a degree of frankness and compromise which to date has been utterly lacking. This problem is getting worse not better.

  36. maha  •  Aug 22, 2006 @7:01 am

    British muslims are largely treated with respect and tolerance. Certainly more so than in France Germany or the Netherlands.

    Yes, and I said as much in the post.

    But there is a flip side, cultural tolerance is a two way street.

    Yes, exactly. That’s my point. Do work on your reading skills, sir.

    The requirements of multiculturalism are that minority populations show a reciprocal respect and tolerance for others in their society. I believe that this responsibility has largely been shirked by a pakistani community that is marred by nepotism, corruption, chauvinism, racism and religious intolerance. These are not typical of wider British society nor other British ethnic groups.

    By all accounts only a small part of the Muslim Brits are radicalized, yet you are dumping on all of them in your post. Hmm…

    I haven’t spent much time in Britain, but there definitely is some, shall we say, discomfort with racial minorities among some I met. My impression is that there is more racism among the native Brits than British society at large is willing to admit to.

    From the New York Times, July 2005:

    Muslims throughout Britain are beginning to feel the disturbing repercussions of the terrorist attack on London last Thursday, said Azad Ali, the chairman of the Muslim Safety Forum, which is tracking the incidents and working with the police and the community to respond.

    In the span of a few days, at least four mosques, including the one here, have been fire-bombed.

    Other mosques have had their windows smashed and their doors damaged. Some have had racist graffiti scrawled on their walls and, in one case, a mosque was hit by bloody pig parts, a particular offense in a religion that eschews eating pork, Ali said.

    Many mosques now have police officers posted outside, particularly during prayer hours. Other mosques, however, have rejected the offer, fearful of appearing more conspicuous. There have also been reports of damaged businesses, homes and cars throughout the country, the police say.

    People, too, have been attacked and harassed. A Muslim man in London was beaten by two passers-by. A boy in Barking, East London, was set upon by a gang. Some bus drivers say they have been spat upon. In a few cases, women say they have been ridiculed and had their hijabs pulled from their heads.

    “In terms of attacks, there has been quite a number of wide-ranging ones,” Ali said. “In London, there has been a huge increase, since Thursday a 1,000 percent increase.”

    Nazir Ahmed, the first Muslim to join the House of Lords, said his title gives him no immunity from the racist sentiment that has intensified in the days after the attack. Just after he stepped out of his brother’s house Friday, with his 85-year-old grandmother and 3-year-old granddaughter, a carload of men slowed down, shouted obscenities and made an obscene gesture.

    So you’ve got what are no doubt a minority of the natives reacting to the acts of a minority of the Muslims by striking out at all Muslims. This bigotry is not going to go away by pretending it doesn’t exist, and could very well lead to more radicalization and bigotry on both sides as one group reacts to the other. I’m not saying it WILL, just that it COULD.

  37. ilyas  •  Aug 22, 2006 @7:01 am

    “nepotism, corruption, chauvinism, racism and religious intolerance”

    Can you give specific examples of these occurances?

  38. sonofajoiner  •  Aug 22, 2006 @11:20 am

    A lot of interesting points have been made. I would like to pick up on a couple of things. As Ilyas notes, I think Asian/Muslim ‘assimilation’ in the UK is probably more widespread than is usually reported, though I’m not attempting to argue assimilation is total. I’m not muslim myself, but I live opposite a mosque in a street that is home largely to Muslims of Bangladeshi descent and from my observations I can say that the young men in the area are much like young men all over the country. They are interested in burning about in their modified cars playing exceedingly loud drum and bass, playing improvised games of cricket and football (the proper English type of course!) in the supermarket car park, and sneaking off to the park to smoke cigarettes and get drunk on cheap cider. Recently I’ve noticed a small group of very intense and serious young muslim men who have adopted so-called ‘muslim dress’ and who have taken to occasionally praying in the street; a cursory glance shows them to be a racially diverse bunch, including at least one white member. I’m sure that’s assimilation of a sort! So whenever I hear stories regarding the so-called ‘clash of civilizations’ or references to the total homogenous and socially excluded muslim community being at odds or indeed at war with the rest of us, I simply look out of the window and put my mind at ease.

    I also have to assert that contrary to some reports, the UK is not stuffed to the gills with frothing at the mouth bigots. I am truly ashamed that the barely sentient idiots on the Malaga flight were British, but I can disassociate myself from them as they were probably all northern and northerners pretty much despise anyone farther south than Yorkshire!: ) But more seriously, it upsets me a great deal that being British at the moment seems to mean having to apologise for or defend the behaviour of your countrymen at every turn. I do think it is an unfair characterisation that all white Brits are inherently xenophobic racists and that we are more so than any other nationality or group. An argument could be made that the average British citizens’ woeful knowledge of their nation’s history beyond Tudors and Nazis, coupled with a tendency toward the ‘plucky-underdog-always-comes-up-fighting-spirit-of-the-Blitz’ style mythology has led to some Brits being genuinely unable to comprehend the serious impact that racism, discrimination, and related social exclusion have on people, or that they are obstacles that may not always be easily overcome. Or that the consequences of discrimination can come back to bite you in the behind. You know, out of a sort of ‘4 Yorkshiremen, we all have it tough but you don’t hear me complain mate’ type ignorance. And then there’s the legendary British propensity for the drink which according to the ‘Mel Gibson Law Of alcoholism’ turns otherwise decent human beings into rabid imbecillic bigots : )

    I will concede that we appear to be in the midst of a nationalist revival as highlighted in the gains made by hateful racist misogynist gimps the BNP in local elections, and much of this is being fanned by tabloids and right-wing papers such as The Daily Mail (which incidentally IS a particularly hateful, poisonous and IMO overtly racist rag which frequently uses alarmist and extremist language to put an otherwise uninteresting point across). Add to this the constant hysteria and exaggeration surrounding the threats posed by terrorists to a mythical ‘western way of life’ and you end up with a bunch of morons having their exaggerated (and in the case of those plane passengers more than likely drink-fuelled) paranoia pandered to.
    And to Margaret and her brush with British hospitality, please don’t assume that we are all hateful, petty racists. Some of us are really quite nice and treat all people as people, and we care very deeply that people both inside and outside of Britain know it.

  39. maha  •  Aug 22, 2006 @11:58 am

    I also have to assert that contrary to some reports, the UK is not stuffed to the gills with frothing at the mouth bigots.

    That’s right. I don’t mean to portray Britain as some kind of flashpoint of bigotry. Certainly y’all are no worse than we are in the states. :-) I do suggest (and this is based on long experience in the U.S.) that even after a society pushes overt racism to the fringe, there can be a lot of subtle, even unconscious, racism that most don’t notice but which is still felt by the minority.

  40. Sammy Lee  •  Aug 23, 2006 @3:40 am

    By all accounts only a small part of the Muslim Brits are radicalized, yet you are dumping on all of them in your post. Hmm…

    No – you’ll notice that I’m not. I single out the Pakistani community for this criticism, perhaps a little unfairly but I have my reasons.

    Let me explain.

    I know this is a generalisation and I’m not claiming that these things are an ethnic characteristic. Rather, the chain immigration (Father brings son brings brother brings wife etc) policy that’s been in force in the UK for several decades has lead to large portions of entire villages being transplanted from pakistan to the UK.

    Frequently these villages are rural and poorly developed with low levels of literacy. Essentially this imigration policy has selected the pakistani rural underclass and transplanted it to Britains most deprived inner city areas.Are you suprised that they’re miserable?

    Further, large regions of Pakistan are essentially still a feudal society where corruption nepotism chauvinism and racism are rife. This is not racist it’s a simple fact. Is it suprising that if you move an entire community it brings it’s social norms with it?

    These problems, imported and otherwise have caused social dislocation and poverty that would have happened had you selected the same socio-economic group from any part of the world from any religious group. Indeed you can see something similair among bangladeshi’s in parts of london (Brick Lane) and somali’s in Bristol (Easton).

    “nepotism, corruption, chauvinism, racism and religious intolerance”

    Can you give specific examples of these occurances?

    Comment by ilyas — August 22, 2006 @ 7:01 am



    In the last 2 years there have been incidences of massive electoral fraud in the UK. All were organised by British people of Pakistani decent. These scams involved going door to door in communities in Birmingham and Leicester and collecting postal ballots from people.


    and Racism – the obvious example to cite is the one linked above if you you’ll realise that one of the reasons this girl was murdered was because of the ethnicity of her chosen partner. But I suppose using just one example to make an argument isn’t really on, so I’ll point to [this article]. And I’ll add some personal experience. My ex partner was Punjabi sikh, and I am of white european descent. We lived in a predominantly pakistani communities for 3 years. In that time we were spat at insulted and threatened. Generally by young pakistani men but also sometimes by women. This reaction was not universal but it was a problem. I’d say that this was chauvinism and racism all tied up in one neat little bundle.

    My principle objection to maha’s post isn’t that he hasn’t got a valid point. I think he has. BUT – Britains problems with race relations are far more complex than the picture he paints. One of our biggest problems is the lack of a really honest conversation. Of course there are others. But it’s like there’s an elephant in the room, talking about him does not make you a racist. Unfortunately the polarised nature of the debate in the UK has made it seem that way.

    The lack of engagement by from minority ethnic communities in this conversation is a real problem. For decades intolerance in the UK has been seen as a white issue.

    “How can you possibly be racist if you’re brown. They all look the same don’t they?”

    That is itself a racist assumption.

  41. Sammy Lee  •  Aug 23, 2006 @3:41 am


    fogot to close link tag

  42. Sam  •  Aug 23, 2006 @4:05 pm

    I just want to comment on some of the stuff about racism in the UK: in the main post – PLEASE remember that there are lies, damned lies, and statistics, especially in the UK right wing press. Polls about radicalisation of Muslims are routinely exaggerated, questions asked misrepresented, deliberate statistical errors made – all these always overhype the situation. It sells papers, and it sells opinion polls to papers. They do things like asking “do you think 9/11 was the result of American or Israeli policy” (which obviously would normally be interpreted to be talking about the motivation of the bombers) and then claiming huge numbers of Muslims say that “America and Israel carried out 9/11″.

    If you want a sober assessment of the state of Muslim opinion in the UK today, please consult this Populus poll, done for the Times and ITV (http://www.populuslimited.com/poll_summaries/2006_07_04_Times_ITV.htm). It has been widely misrepresented in the press, but the actual tables and, to their credit, Populus’s own summary, do not overhype or misrepresent it.

    As for racism in the white population in the UK, in my experience having lived in multiple places, it’s been increasing rapidly, mostly sneaking through under the radar. It’s quite localised: while a very large number of people fear or are suspicious of Muslims without actually hating them, serious hostility appears mainly restricted to certain towns in Yorkshire and Lancashire, and to parts of East London (oddly, not really in the ethnically mixed areas of London which contain the Muslims, but the outer working class suburbs which contain virtually none). Continuous scaremongering anti-foreigner and especially anti-Muslim headlines in the Daily Express, Daily Mail and Sun have been doing their work. I wouldn’t like to put numbers on it, though.

  43. maha  •  Aug 23, 2006 @4:33 pm

    Sammy Lee — I don’t think you grasp what I was saying originally when I wrote

    The Brits may have entered into an unfortunate spiral in which terrorist acts of a small minority of Muslims incite bigoted reactions from “native” Brits, which in turn causes British Muslim youth to feel more alienated and more likely to be radicalized.

    As a practical matter it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference who started what, or whether A is worse than B. What happens — the “spiral” I was talking about — is that group reactions to another group’s bigotry incites more bigotry. Eventually the two groups are locked in a kind of bigotry waltz, and hate feeds off hate.

    When your spin your wheels over who started what, whether the chicken or egg came first, you’re just wasting time. Nobody gets a pass. Nobody’s bigotry is excusable because somebody else was bigoted first. The only way to stop it is to stop it; turn the other cheek. Don’t take the bait. Resist the temptation to lash back.

    Even if radicalization is originating from within the Muslim community, if “native” Brits don’t feed it, it won’t grow as fast.

  44. Jeff  •  Jun 28, 2007 @11:00 am

    Racial profiling is absolutely necessary and it is absurd to try to argue against it. Your argument is one of “abuses” in racial profiling – not of the proper exercise of such (e.g., the “Born in East LA” illustration and the passengers leaving the flight). In reality, before deporting Cheech, American law enforcement would have given him the opportunity to demonstrate his citizenship.

    But, it’s not just racial profiling; there are other factors involved.

    How many 80 year old caucasian ladies have blown themselves up to kill innocent victims? Compare that to the number of Middle-Eastern Muslim men who have done this? As a percentage, it’s pretty close to zero for the old lady.

    If there were a similar percentage of native, caucasian Americans or Brits committing these acts of terror – then racial profiling would be flawed and problematic.

    The reverse is true as well – if the vast majority of acts of terror in the world were being committed by white, caucasian, American males between the ages of 30 and 50, then I’d be a prime suspect. And, as unfortunate as it would be, I would understand the hassle. Further, I’d be vigorously and publicly condemning these actions.

    One clear fact in both America and Britain is that the Muslims who are not terrorists are extraordinarily quiet in their condemnation of the radical jihadists. Not until they speak out vociferously against such will they garner respect from those outside their own religious and racial groups.

  45. maha  •  Jun 28, 2007 @11:33 am

    Jeff — in future, read the post all the way through (including the last three paragraphs) before commenting on it, so you don’t look like so much of an ass.This is for your own sake. Thanks much.

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