Thursday, April 25, 2013

Boston Marathon Suspects and Racial Profiling

Boston Marathon Suspects' Muslim Identity and the Futility of Racial Profiling

Well, it turns out that the alleged perpetrators of the Boston marathon attacks happen to be Muslims. When the pictures of the suspects (deemed Suspect 1 and Suspect 2) were initially released by the FBI, almost everyone thought that they looked Caucasian, and so therefore unlikely to be Muslims.

Turns out that while they were indeed Caucasians - of Chechen ethnicity - they were also Muslims.

For some people, they probably learned something new - Muslims can be of any kind of ethnicity! Although, only 15% of the Muslim population in the world happen to be of Arab ethnicity, there are segments in America that actually favor racial profiling. While racial profiling is not officially advocated by the US, there are enough anecdotal accounts of how Muslims who fit the general perception of what Muslims should look or sound like (i.e. women in headscarves, those with common Muslim-sounding names like Muhammed or Ali, Arabic foreign accents, or brown skinned people) have been singled out for extra checks while traveling in and out of the country. The term "flying while Muslim" is testament to the fact that racial profiling of Muslims does exist in America.

When horrific incidents like the Boston Marathon attacks occur, there are people who attempt to draw a link between the Muslim faith (and consequently the Muslim identity) and the violent act that have been committed. And the calls for laws that discriminate between individuals based on their ethnic and religious identities grow louder.

It is a simplistic explanation followed by simple reactionary solutions - close doors to all Muslims (anti-immigration laws), "contain" the Muslims already in the country through actions that place them on the defense (FBI surveillance and periodic entrapment operations), increase efforts to make Muslims conform to perceived notions of the American identity, forcibly if necessary (eg: preemptive anti-Shariah laws, or follow France's route of banning certain dress that cover the female body).

The world population of Muslims amount to approximately 1.5 billion. If Islam was truly disseminating violent ideologies to its followers, then the numbers of violent incidents would be far higher than what we have today.

Despite the reports that show we are not in as much peril from violent "Islamic" terrorism on US soil as the mainstream media and politicians makes it out to be notwithstanding, some people are already (once again) responding by discriminating Muslims in the name of security. This is highly inappropriate and counter-productive in the long run. By such continued discriminatory behavior, an entire group of Muslims is made to feel defensive, fearful and eventually mistrustful of the very community in which they live in.

There is no better time than now to work on the building of bridges.

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