Sen. Inhofe Claims All Terrorists Are Muslim

January 22, 2010 10:10 am ET — Walid Zafar

It is not uncommon these days for people to claim that while not all Muslims are terrorists, all terrorists, in fact, are Muslim.  Such absurdity comes neither from the pens of academics nor the calculations of statisticians, but from people almost entirely devoted to the cause of hysterical demagoguery.

The problem, however, is more than dismissible ignorance.   While such statements have traditionally stayed within the fringes of American political discourse, an arena where appealing to prejudice is the standard, it has gained more traction in recent months, especially after the attempted Christmas day attack on a Detroit-bound airliner.  Pundits and politicians alike have now joined the fray, advocating ethnic profiling that would single out anyone who appears Muslim on the grounds that all or most terrorists are Muslim. 

The latest politician to throw out this canard is Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who really should know better.  At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Fort Hood shootings, Inhofe pointed out that he himself supports racial and ethnic profiling on the basis that all terrorists are Muslim and from the Middle East.

Inhofe:

And I'm for one - I know it's not politically correct to say, I believe in racial and ethnic profiling.  I think if you're looking at people getting on an airplane, and you have X amount of resources to get into it, you need to get at the targets, not my wife.  And I just think it's something that should be looked into. The statement that's been made is probably 90% true, with some exceptions like the Murrah Federal office building in my state of Oklahoma.  They were not Muslims, they were not Middle Easterners.  But when you hear that not all Middle Easterners or Muslims between the ages of 20 and 35 of terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims or Middle Easterners between the ages of 20 and 35, that's by and large true.

                         

Perhaps as a society, we have become accustomed to associating violence with terror only when the perpetrators are Muslims.  But as the families of the countless victims of the IRA in Ireland, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the Shining Path in Peru, Kahanists in the Palestinian Territories, the ETA in Spain or the Aum Shinrikyo in Tokyo can attest, no single group has a monopoly on employing terror to achieve their social, political and economic goals, existential or otherwise. 

The more important point to make is that profiling is by and large, ineffective and indeed, counterproductive.  As Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff recently pointed out to NPR's Robert Seiler, the Christmas day plot "illustrates the danger and the foolishness of profiling because people's conception of what a potential terrorist looks like often doesn't match reality."

Actionable intelligence works, small-minded and reactionary essentialism does not.  Senator Inhofe should take heed.

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