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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Racial Profiling of Muslims Feared

An inquiry into the radicalization of the American Muslim community is being proposed by longtime New York Congressman Peter King. 

As the report states, Congressman King cites his perception that Muslim leaders have been generally less than cooperative with law enforcement efforts to investigate possible terrorism, or other crimes.

Some Muslim leaders cite a fear of "racial profiling" of Muslims.  Racial profiling is another way of saying that certain segments of the population which share certain characteristics, like age and physical appearance, will be greeted with a greater-than-average amount of suspicion without necessarily having done anything.

This raises important legal and policy questions.  Americans treasure their concept of "equal protection." However, we also treasure our lives.  Law enforcement may not be "perfect," but its primary mission is to protect the public.  

Profiling of criminals is done routinely as a device for solving crime.  The term "racial profiling" suggests an improper, unwanted and possibly (but not automatically) unconstitutional practice.  However, when attempted terrorists -- or to put it more bluntly, attempted mass murderers -- are found to share certain characteristics, what is the rationale for asking that the authorities willingly ignore these characteristics?  

It helps to define the issue as follows:  What is the primary mission of law enforcement?  Is it to stop crime -- or terrorism -- or to publicly and overtly demonstrate to society the fairness and religion-blindness of the authorities?  

Is the primary concern the protection of the public, or the preservation of a group's self-asserted, collective self-esteem -- while risking the protection of the public?

Let's get something straight:  No one should like any encounter with law enforcement.  Being under suspicion should be disturbing and insulting.  However, the refusal to acknowledge basic similarities in the religion professed to be practiced by almost all convicted terrorists is to demand that the authorities deliberately ignore perhaps the most predictive factor indicating one's propensity to commit mass murder.   Such a decision is incompatible with law enforcement's primary directive to protect the public. 

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer.  He is available for consultation or comment at 917-696-2442 and via e-mail at   

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