In my column on the foiled UK terror plot, I ended by asking whether political correctness is really worth dying for?
Indeed, the entire discussion of profiling Muslim airline passengers in an age of Islamic terrorism rests on this question. And if the reaction of mostly British passengers aboard a recent flight from Malaga, Spain to Manchester, England is any indication, the answer would be “no.”
In what’s been dubbed a case of “mutiny” by the British media, fearful passengers demanded that two young Muslim men they felt were acting suspiciously be taken off the flight. Wearing heavy coats and sweaters in hot weather, frequently checking their watches and speaking loudly in Urdu, Sohail Ashraf and Khurram Zeb were eventually escorted off the plane by authorities.
Worried passengers, including families with children who became increasingly upset, simply refused to fly with the men on board. With the recent suicide-bombing plot still fresh in their minds, passengers were justifiably concerned at the prospect of turning a blind eye to the presence of these two men.
The pair was eventually cleared by airport security and booked on a different flight the next day. But it was later discovered that one of the men had a criminal background. He had been convicted for credit card fraud, a seemingly petty crime the likes of which nonetheless figures into many terrorist cases. Adding to the strange situation was the pair’s travel itinerary; they were flying to Spain and back in a single day, presumably to “check out” a resort they planned to visit later.
While the two men persist in claiming innocence and the perpetually mystified British media portrays the case as one of insufferable bigotry on the part of the other passengers, the very real fears at the heart of the matter go largely untouched. Political correctness dictates that the pair’s Muslim identity has no bearing whatsoever on their propensity for being involved in terrorism, but the public knows better.
Just about every act of terrorism in the last five years has been perpetrated by young Muslim men and, in a few cases, women. This is clearly a pattern and it begs for profiling, not simply of ethnicity, but also of religious background since terrorists come in all shades. The majority are Middle Eastern, but those of African, Asian, Caribbean, Eastern European or mixed origin, not to mention converts to Islam from all backgrounds, also play a part in the panorama of Islamic terrorism.
To hear British Muslim leaders tell it, such observations are nothing less than racism. They reacted to this latest incident with predictable indignation, coining a catchy new term in the process, “Flying while Muslim.” Chief Superintendent Ali Dizaei of the London Metropolitan Police, one of the country’s most senior Muslim officers, called it, “travelling whilst Asian.”
Dizaei is opposed to profiling based on ethnicity or religious background because as he puts it, “I don’t think there’s a stereotypical image of a terrorist.” Apparently, being Muslim has nothing to do with it, despite all evidence to the contrary. But in the long run, playing the victim card only allows the Muslim community to deflect valid questions about the radicalism emanating largely unfettered from within its midst.
Western leadership may continue to deny the true nature of the threat we are facing, but the public has no such qualms. The actions of the passengers aboard this flight suggest that people do not trust politically correct authorities to protect them and are more than willing to take on the task themselves when necessary.
Anyone listening to talk radio callers or reading comments at blogs in the wake of the foiled UK terror plot could see this shift. Talk show host Larry Elder even suggested last week that an airline strictly for non-Muslims called “Infidel Airlines” would undoubtedly be a huge success. While Elder may have been joking, he was right. Were such an airline to exist, however unlikely in today’s political climate, it would outsell the competitors in an instant. This is the harsh truth that few want to admit publicly, but that everyone knows in the back of their minds.
Rather than pillorying passengers for simply acting on common sense and gut instinct, authorities might learn a thing or two. For until they begin to address the very real and justified concerns of non-Muslims in a world of Islamic terrorism, vigilantism is sure to increase.
Political correctness be damned.