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Monday, August 22, 2005

The Washington Post on Muslims in Britain and Racial Profiling Generally

The past few days, The Washington Post's op-ed section has admirably devoted considerable attention to racial profiling and the multiculturalism question in Britain. Today, for example, two of the four op-eds examine these subjects.

Columnist William Raspberry responds to those who argue in favor of racial profiling. He firsts sets forth what the proponents of racial profiling are saying:
After all, they argue, weren't the Sept. 11 terrorists all young Muslim men? Isn't it likely that the next terrorist attack will be carried out by young Muslim men? So why waste time screening white-haired grandmothers and blue-suited white guys? Much more efficient to tap the shoulder of any young man who looks Muslim -- a category that covers not just Arabs but also Asians, Africans and, increasingly, African Americans.

Raspberry counters that, practically speaking, developing a coherent profile is impossible, as "young Arab men are fungible." As a result, "since Americans look all sorts of ways, a more sensible way of deciding who gets extra attention is behavior." In conclusion, Raspberry quips:
[W]e do know what [the terrorists] look like. They look like the 19 hijackers of Sept. 11, but they also look like Richard "Shoe Bomber" Reid, John Walker Lindh, Jose Padilla and -- don't forget -- Timothy McVeigh. Profile that.
Also in today's edition of the Post, Frances Stead Sellers addresses multiculturalism in Britain. She defines multiculturalism as "the... challenge of building community out of disparate populations with disparate traditions and disparate beliefs, all the while preserving and celebrating those disparities. "

Sellers argues that there is a fundamental difference between the United States and Britain, in that in America "every new immigrant can make America more American (as President Bush once argued), and where the founding philosophy and civic rituals were designed to create a citizenry out of the masses," whereas "European countries were established less deliberately -- largely on shared traditions, shared languages, shared histories and even shared genes." The result in Britain is a "deficit in civic ritual," which the British government has tried to correct in the past few years through, for example, the introduction of a national "Citizenship Day."

On Saturday, columnist Colbert I. King argues that the "massive failure of assimilation" that is seemingly "inconceivable in the United States" generally is occurring in American prisons: "the group within the African American Muslim community that is experiencing the most explosive growth is probably the least assimilated: black inmates." King contends that what has led to the many conversions to Islam is not "Americanization." As FBI director Robert S. Mueller III noted, the American prison system is "fertile ground for extremists who exploit both a prisoner's conversion to Islam while still in prison, as well as their socioeconomic status and placement in the community upon their release." King effectively argues that this "concern is no longer theoretical."

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