The perils of racial profiling

posted on January 09, 2010 | in Category War on Terror | PermaLink

by Shadina Siddiqui
Source: The Winnipeg Free Press
URL: [link]
Date: January 9, 2010

News of body scanners and other intrusive security measures is raising deep concerns within Muslims of Canada about the possibility of a back-door introduction of racial profiling into this country. Racial profiling is easy to speak of and defend; just follow the law and you have nothing to worry about. But when you consider Maher Arar and the other Muslim men that were all law-abiding Canadian citizens and yet were rendered to torture, the logic behind profiling starts to look pretty thin. When you hear about harassment of hijab-wearing Muslim women at the U.S. border and when you feel like all eyes are on you, following you, spying on you, you cannot help but feel that these measures are more about making people feel safe than providing any real answers to legitimate questions about security concerns. These feelings are further reinforced when the criteria used to single you out are based on your nationality, race, religion and ethnicity.

If we have real security concerns, why are we not questioning the now publicly acknowledged intelligence failure, the lack of co-ordination, collaboration and information sharing among agencies? Why are we not addressing or at least investigating the possible root causes of what is producing and recruiting these young Muslim men to terrorist organizations and causing them to abandon their faith?

These are tough questions that deserve honest and well-thought answers or, at the very least, debate. We need to eliminate the cause(s) rather than continue to treat the symptoms and compromise our democratic values in the process. If we don't, we can only expect further encroachments on our collective civil liberties and human rights in the name of greater security.

George Radwanski, our past privacy commissioner, articulated what now echoes in my ears as I try to reconcile with the new reality that awaits me at the airport: "If we have to weigh every action, every statement, every human contact, wondering who might find out about it, make a record of it, judge it, misconstrue it or somehow use it to our detriment, we are not truly free."

Winnipeg, MANITOBA