Randy's Corner Deli Library

29 November 2010

Airport Security: Let's Profile Muslims

View from the corner booth: Enough politically correct BS and playing Masterpiece Theater at the nation's airports. If we want to get serious about airline security, we will do this in a precise, targeted way. How disgusting is it to see a little old purple haired lady from Des Moines getting patted down or taken to secondary inspection. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the lines and aggravation the flying public go through every day is a joke, meant to make us feel good, giving us the illusion of security. Perhaps it's worked. We haven't had any more 9/11 - type disasters, but taking off shoes because some genius terrorist figured out how to put explosives in his shoes? Touching our private parts, scanning us to see if we haven't jammed a hand-grenade into our Fruit of the Looms or Victoria's Secret panties? Let's just all fly naked and be done with it. The evidence, and it is evidence, is in: most, if not all of the current threats come from Muslims from particular countries. If we don't do this, we're just dumb. Flying should be a pleasure and I shouldn't have to feel like a criminal when I go through an airport. Read this article and make up your own mind.

Randy Shiner

Airport Security: Let's Profile Muslims
by Asra Q. Nomani Info
Asra Q. Nomani is the author of Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam. She is co-director of the Pearl Project, an investigation into the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Her activism for women's rights at her mosque in W.V. is the subject of a PBS documentary, The Mosque in Morgantown. She recently published a monograph, Milestones for a Spiritual Jihad: Toward an Islam of Grace. asra@asranomani.com

In the wake of yet another Muslim terror plot, we can't ignore the threat profile any longer—or the solution. Asra Q. Nomani argues the case for religious and racial profiling.

For all those holiday travelers negotiating the Transportation Security Administration’s new cop-a-feel strategy, there is a difficult solution we need to consider: racial and religious profiling.

Passenger Angela Johnson talks to reporters about security and Thanksgiving holiday travel at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia on Nov. 24, 2010. (Photo: Chris Rank / Bloomberg via Getty Images)
As an American Muslim, I’ve come to recognize, sadly, that there is one common denominator defining those who’ve got their eyes trained on U.S. targets: MANY of them are Muslim—like the Somali-born teenager arrested Friday night for a reported plot to detonate a car bomb at a packed Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in downtown Portland, Oregon.

We have to talk about the taboo topic of profiling because terrorism experts are increasingly recognizing that religious ideology makes terrorist organizations and terrorists more likely to commit heinous crimes against civilians, such as blowing an airliner out of the sky. Certainly, it’s not an easy or comfortable conversation but it’s one, I believe, we must have.

This past week, as part of a debate series sponsored by the New York-based group Intelligence Squared, I argued that U.S. airports should use racial and religious profiling. (Taking the opposite stand was a “debating team” that included the former director of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff; Columbia University scholar of Pakistan, Hassan Abbas; and Debra Burlingame, a former flight attendant whose brother was a pilot of one of the planes hijacked on 9/11.)

I realize that in recent years, profiling has become a dirty word, synonymous with prejudice, racism, and bigotry. But while I believe our risk assessment should not end with religion, race and ethnicity, I believe that it should include these important elements, as part of a “triage” strategy that my debate partner, former CIA case officer Robert Baer, says airports and airliners already do.

Profiling doesn’t have to be about discrimination, persecution, or harassment. As my debating partner, conservative columnist Deroy Murdock put it: “We are not arguing that the TSA should send anyone named Mohammad to be waterboarded somewhere between the first-class lounge and the Pizza Hut.”

In an online posting of the Intelligence Squared video, a Muslim viewer called me an “Uncle Tom.”

And more Americans, it seems, are willing to choose racial and religious profiling as one part of keeping our skies safe. At the beginning of the debate, 37 percent of the audience was for religious and racial profiling, while 33 percent were against and 30 percent were undecided. By the end of the debate, 49 percent of the audience was for religious and racial profiling, 40 percent were against and the rest were undecided, meaning that that the motion carried. Of course, this “victory” in a scholarly debate doesn’t mean that the motion would necessarily win any broader popularity contests.

In the debate, I said, “Profile me. Profile my family,” because, in my eyes, we in the Muslim community have failed to police ourselves. In an online posting of the Intelligence Squared video, a Muslim viewer called me an “Uncle Tom.”

But to me, profiling isn’t about identity politics but about threat assessment.

According to a terrorism database at the University of Maryland, which documents 60 attacks against airlines and airports between 1970 and 2007, the last year available, suspects in attacks during the 1970s were tied to the Jewish Defense League, the Black Panthers, the Black September, the National Front for the Liberation of Cuba, Jewish Armed Resistance and the Croatian Freedom Fighters, along with a few other groups.

In each of these groups’ names was a religious or ethnic dimension. For that time, those were the identities that we needed to assess. Today, the threat has changed, and it is primarily coming from Muslims who embrace al Qaeda’s radical brand of Islam.

Data in reports released over the past several months from New York University’s Center for Security and the Law; the Congressional Research Service, and the Rand Corporation reveal that over the past decade not only are many defendants in terrorism cases Muslim, but they trace their national or ethnic identity back to specific countries.

According to the Rand study “Would-Be Warriors,” the national origins or ethnicities most defendants came from was Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Jordan and Egypt, with a handful from the Muslim areas of the Balkans.

To be sure, according to New York University’s Center for Security and the Law “Terrorist Trial Report Card,” an analysis of terrorism cases prosecuted between 2001 and 2009 reveals that identifying race and ethnicity doesn’t mean stereotyping according to country. Among the hundreds of defendants in the study, most held U.S. citizenship. Still, many of the Americans were ethnically connected to Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.

The track record of Muslim plots against airliners and airports is clear, starting with the 1989 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. After the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, Ramzi Yousef schemed with his uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a Muslim of Pakistani Baluchi ethnicity, to blow up 12 jetliners traveling from Asia to the U.S., intending to kill as many as 4,000 people. The plan fell apart in 1995 after a chemical fire caught the attention of police in the Philippines, but a test run had already killed one passenger seated near a nitroglycerin bomb on a Philippine Airlines Flight.

Three years later, Osama bin Laden threatened to bring down U.S. and Israeli aircrafts through the International Islamic Front for Fighting Against the Jews and Crusaders, warning the attacks would be “pitiless and violent” and announcing that “the war has begun.”

“Our response to the barbaric bombardment against Muslims of Afghanistan and Sudan will be ruthless and violent,” he said in a statement. “All the Islamic world has mobilized to strike a prominent American or Israeli strategic objective, to blow up their airplanes and to seize them.” A declassified CIA memo written in December 1998 warned: “Bin Ladin preparing to hijack U.S. aircraft.”

In 1999, we had a “Millennium bomber,” targeting Los Angeles International Airport. And, in a case that became very personal to me, on Dec. 24, 1999, a group of Pakistani Muslim militants hijacked an Indian Airlines jet from Kathmandu, Nepal, diverting it to Kandahar, Afghanistan, killing one newlywed passenger. In exchange for the passengers, India released Muslim militants, including a Pakistan-British Muslim militant named Omar Sheikh. Sheikh went on to mastermind the 2002 kidnapping of my friend, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, whom Khalid Sheikh Mohammed later confessed to killing.

After the Kathmandu hijacking, we had the 9/11 attacks. And since then, we’ve had the “Torrance Plotters,” the “JFK Airport Plotters,” the Glasgow, Scotland, bombers, and the “Transatlantic bombers,” all targeting airlines and airports. More recently, there was the attempt by the “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who last Christmas attempted to blow up explosives in his underwear—a foiled attack that brought the pat-downs of today. In addition to the Portland plot, most recently, we had the package bomb attempt out of Yemen last month.

Victor Asal, a political science professor at State University of New York at Albany, and Karl Rethemeyer, a professor of public administration and policy at SUNY at Albany, have studied 395 terrorist organizations in operation between 1998 and 2005, and Asal concludes, “What makes terrorist organizations more lethal is religious ideology. When you combine religion and ethno-nationalism, you get a dangerous combination.”

Asal, the son of a Tunisian father, says there hasn’t been enough research done for him to take a stand on racial and religious profiling, but favors “behavioral profiling,” which assesses risky behavior like buying one-way tickets with cash and flying without checked baggage.

As attorney R. Spencer MacDonald put it in an article in the Brigham Young University Journal of Public Law, we can have “rational profiling.”

I know this is an issue of great distress to many people. But I believe that we cannot bury our heads in the sand anymore. We have to choose pragmatism over political correctness, and allow U.S. airports and airlines to do religious and racial profiling.

Asra Q. Nomani is the author of Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam. She is co-director of the Pearl Project, an investigation into the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Her activism for women's rights at her mosque in W.V. is the subject of a PBS documentary, The Mosque in Morgantown. She recently published a monograph, Milestones for a Spiritual Jihad: Toward an Islam of Grace. asra@asranomani.com

23 November 2010

A Conversation Between Friends

Preface: Eric Reed is a world-class Jazz pianist and a "Facebook Friend" as well. He was Mitchell's ensemble instructor at the 2004 UCSD Jazz Camp and was and still is a great example of someone who tries to put back into life some of what he has taken out by doing educational programs all the time. He is evidently a very religious man, something that I respect. I am very interested in whether anyone thinks I went overboard in my comments about bowing down to Jesus and your opinion of the whole conversation in general. Please let me know in the comments here or privately if you're so inclined.


‎"Any man that will bow before Jesus, can stand up to any man." ~Dr. Ed Haygood
Sunday at 11:55am via Mobile Web · ·
  • 15 people like this.
    • Peter L. Wright trudat!
      Sunday at 11:56am ·
    • Beverly Joy Douglas Can they keep a job, provide for the family, change their destiny and fulfill their dreams? That's the man he needs to be standing up to!
      Sunday at 12:12pm · · 2 people
    • Peter L. Wright ‎?????
      Sunday at 12:21pm ·
    • Eric Reed Ditto
      Sunday at 3:51pm ·
    • Randy Shiner
      With respect, I'm Jewish, and I will, I assure you, never bow before Jesus or any likeness of him, (or Buddha or Allah) since Jesus was, to my understanding, a man himself, not God, and I frankly prefer to have my own personal relationship with God in which I take personal responsibility for my actions using the free will that God, our creator, gave all of us. Do I look to God for help and strength during hard times? Of course. But my actions are up to me to dig myself out. They may not work, but the lesson of the book of Job, among others, is to never give up even in the worst circumstances and with that, I too can stand up to any man. I get what @Beverley is saying. It's God's work to just be who you are and take care of your family. That's being a real man.
      Sunday at 4:48pm · · 1 person
    • Mike Melvoin It's hard to argue with this reasoning:
      "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required..." - Jesus, Luke 12:48.
      Sunday at 5:09pm ·
    • Eric Reed Philippians 2:10 expresses that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Proverbs 14:12 tells us that man's way seems right, but ultimately just leads to death. If you're going to live like Jesus means nothing, you better be right.
      Sunday at 7:32pm · · 1 person
    • Randy Shiner
      That is, for those who follow the Christian Bible. I don't and find myself just getting along fine with the original. What is this "you better be right"? I know what it is: you think all Jews and other nonbelievers who don't believe in Jesus are going to what you call hell, right? That's the typical fundamentalist Christian point of view toward my people and which has formed much of the basis of your need to proselytize and worse. I don't believe that a man can be a God or that there is such a thing as a "virgin birth" or any of the mythology surrounding Jesus' birth, life, death and return. You are obviously free to accept and believe what you like. From what I know, he had lots of good things to say. I will use what God gave me that makes sense to me, combined with 5000 years of written tradition about how to conduct one's life in order to get closer to God in this lifetime. I talk to God directly and am not in need of an intermediary. For me, it's just that simple.
      Sunday at 8:05pm · · 1 person
    • Eric Reed This is funny; I posted a quote that you clearly didn't like - you could have simply opted not to respond. I didn't post the statement telling anybody what they had to do. What you call my "need" to proselytize is, in fact, an encouragement. If you're offended by it, you can change channels...
      Sunday at 8:30pm · · 2 people
    • Eric Reed Ah, I forgot one important one: Ephesians 6:12 - we wrestle not against flesh and blood. Thank you, Lord, for the revelation of your Holy Word.
      Sunday at 8:44pm · · 1 person
    • Dominic Evans To the person on here that said Jesus was not God (the Jewish Guy) does not know the word of Christ. "In the beginning was the WORD and the WORD was with GOD and the WORD WAS GOD! AND THE WORD BECAME FLESH AND DWELT AMONG MEN! ALSO JESUS TOLD THE PHARISES..."BEFORE ABRAHAM WAS........I...AM"! JESUS IS ALSO THE SAME PRIEST OF THE OLD TESTAMENT THAT CAME IN THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK. (order meanining manner). There are many scriptures that refer to the DEITY OF CHRIST SIR SO STOP MIS QUOTING.
      Sunday at 10:37pm · · 2 people
    • Mike Melvoin oo oh! A family quarrel! :) about who is right. The beauty of our music is how many things it can mean! The words can squelch the ambiguities. Prose worst, poetry better, prayer better yet, the music best. God does not make mistakes.
      Yesterday at 8:58am ·
    • Randy Shiner
      ‎@Mike: well said. @Eric, please don't get mad at me for putting up what I believe. I was not offended in the least by what you posted originally. I just have a different point of view. Religion is a very personal, emotional thing and strikes many different chords in many different ways depending upon how we were raised and what, as adults, makes sense to us and which gives us comfort during hard times and which forms the genuine basis of a model by which to live on this earth, now. I started out the conversation "with respect ", and I meant it. Just remember that doubt is as powerful a force as certainty. Peace to you and yours, my brother.
      Yesterday at 9:53am ·

Back to Life

It's been a long time since I posted anything on this blog, which, during the elections of 2008, was getting a lot of activity, from me as well as from the rest of the world. Unfortunately, since August 19, 2010, I've been a little busy fighting off polycythemia vera and Crohn's Disease, for which I had surgery on October 8, having very much enjoyed that moment in time when you come back from the dead, and wake up in so much pain, you can hardly utter the words "morphine now". Nothing like waking from major abdominal surgery with a 12 inch zipper in your belly, but nothing like real physical, horrible pain to remind you that you're alive.

Suffice it to say that after a second hospital stay - from October 20-24 owing to the fact that my guts weren't working - I am really feeling a lot better, looking good - I lost 40lbs. and am into a 34" waist pant - a size I haven't seen in almost 20 years, and I am really, really trying to get back into the swing of things, and with some help from some dear friends, I am starting to swing, and swing hard. There's no choice, because whether I'm sick or not, I'm the only one who can put food in my stomach, so I have had to be somewhat productive, or at least try, from the moment I woke, unfocused and moaning in pain, from my surgery.

Tonight as I write this, I am awaiting the arrival of my beautiful boy (who is, he reminds me, 19 years old) from Bloomington, where he is attending the IU-Jacobs School of Music as a Jazz Percussion major - talk about focus! - and where he is, according to all I am hearing and reading, really on his way to his goal of being the greatest percussionist in the world, on a par with Elvin Jones, who was, some of you may know, mostly known for his work on the drumkit for John Coltrane. But he doesn't stop there, oh no. His drive knows no bounds and he's become not only outstanding on the drumkit, but a monster on the vibraphone and the timpani as well. I am linking to three videos of his in the waning golden wonderful days of high school:

1: Mitchell's Arrangement of Nardis by Miles Davis

2: Mitchell playing "Concerto de Aranjuez - Adagio on Marimba

3: Mitchell playing John Bergamo's "Four Pieces for Timpani, Movements I & IV

The point is two-fold here. One, he is my pride and joy, words my mother, may she rest in piece, used to call me, the meaning of which eluded me until Mitchell was born. Two, it will pay him, and everyone in these troubled, chaotic times, to be as versatile as he can be.

All I have ever expected of him is to be the greatest at what he loves to do, and get paid for doing it. As the Joker in 2009's "The Dark Knight" said with respect to robbing banks, "if you're good at something, never do it for free". Lacking passion in one's work is a recipe for a miserable, robotic life, lacking real drive or energy to excel. Why would you want to excel at something you don't really believe in? To me, that's a commonsensical precept, but one which, I think, was lacking in a lot of our boomer upbringings, at least Jewish ones, where we were expected to go to school to get a "job": a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, and blah, blah, blah.

I'm working my way through an excellent biography of Thelonious Monk entitled _Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original_ and there is a passage (at p.178) in which Thelonious recounts taking his eldest son, Toots, at the time, if I remember correctly about 6 years old or so, for shoes and being told by his wife Nellie what kind of shoes to get for Toot. He replied - "I am going to take him to the shoe department - and he can pick his own style - he's the one that has to wear them, not me." And, of some more urgency of late, the very forward-thinking parental notion of letting his son be who he really is, another commonsensical parenting precept that I have drilled into Mitchell's head since he's been able to understand metaphysical concepts such as that of being. He's his own man. He is who he is, nobody else. And the beautiful thing about what he's doing - Jazz - is that it commands that the artist always be who he is, since every improvised note is intentional, demanding that he always mean every note he plays, being who he is in that moment in time. The combination of his career choice and not being afraid of being himself wherever he goes is, I know, going to keep him away from psychiatrists and antidepressants and psychotropic drugs for the rest of his life.

He's a star. Now it's time for his old man to get a life, too, because Mitch has his own life and in all honesty, my focus needs to be back on what I am going to do for the rest of my life and with whom. I have screwed up so many relationships in the past, so many great women I could have and should have settled down with, but I wasn't ready evidently, just to be who I am, because in all honesty, I don't think I ever had occasion to really think about that for myself. It's only been as the result of being Mitch's dad that I have learned how to live myself. It's time to put into practice what I've been drilling into his head over the years. It's obvious that I can't do this life alone, and that everyone needs somebody to love. I could quote the title of every Beatles song ever written (and John Lennon in particular) and they would all be right - life is nothing without someone to share it with. Nothing. What is it but simple narcissism to focus one's attention completely on your own needs? For me, it's a matter of two being better than one. The words "soulmate", "life partner" mean oh so much more these days than in the past when I was under the severe delusion that I could do anything by myself, a sad and lonely victim of belief in my own graying frailty, unaware of just how happy you could be if you could focus yourself in large measure on making one other person in the world happy, and she me. And between the two of us, we totally rock (or, being a Jazz dad, swing) together.

These are the thoughts that cross my mind as I try to reenter life again. If there's one thing that I have learned over the course of the past three years since my last visit to the surgeon, it's to never give up. Never. I'll give up when I die, and that is, I hope and pray, a long, long time from now. In the meantime, back to life.