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America's New Face of Terrorism

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Newsweek unveiled the newest face of Terrorism this week -- the young black man. If you are an African-American parent, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab looks no differently than your son. Donning a black scully, wearing a somewhat oversized dark blue Nike jacket with a sporty Hip-hop flair, the Nigerian-born terrorist is no longer the son of a prominent and wealthy businessman. Mutallab is what Newsweek calls a child of devil incarnate Usama Bin Laden.

As the Christmas day underwear terrorist bomb scare continues to play out, the U.S. intelligence and government once again too many times discovered systemic incompetencies for checking, tracking, and following up on terrorist leads and no-fly lists. But there is another dangerous dynamic taking place that African Americans are ignoring because they might be too afraid to confront publicly. Black men are now officially lumped in with Arabs and Muslim men around the world as potential terrorists and dangers to the West.

Americans perhaps by necessity are laying down their last bit of Civil liberties and rights to privacy in the name of National Security agreeing to more invasive airport screening procedures. However, as Justice Thurgood Marshall has written, "History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure."

It looks like America is getting rid of its Civil Rights so that the government can actively profile all persons who, as General McInerney said on Fox News, "are Muslim and between the ages of 18-24." Both he and Newt Gingrich won't say stop all people brown or black skinned; the majority will draw this conclusion on their own. The operative words are "discriminating based upon behavior." As much as people willfully fool themselves into thinking that the "stepped up" efforts by security agencies will be spent on reviewing the suspicious actions of passengers, there is not enough time management resources to properly train and educate TSA employees to become astute observers of suspicious behavior. Instead TSA workers will revert to the easier way to stopping "the enemies" -- discriminate based upon name, religious affiliation, race and ethnicity.

For the United States to implement a more intelligent and effectual offensive toward stopping violence against Americans abroad and the homeland, the road taken will sadly involve alienating the Muslim World, and American Muslim populations inclusive of African Americans. The U.S. psyche is that it must be seen as tough and using all of its technical solutions, i.e., ramping up technology procedures to spy, x-ray, body scan, and inspect. But the U.S. government system -- even with an African-American president -- will continue to miss something always ignored to start to address terrorism: the cooperative efforts needed from Muslim polities, Muslim-American communities, and now African-American communities on making sure that profiling for terrorists that will inevitably take place more aggressively will not turn into an overwhelming justification for targeting the black and the brown.

The harsh reality is that the overwhelming majority of the terrorist acts against the U.S. are men of color and Muslim. The blackening of terrorists started with Richard Reid, the shoe bomber of 2001, a Jamaican. Black faces then showed again with DC Sniper John Muhammad, and London's 7/7 showed more black faces. This past May, four black males were involved in a foiled terrorist plot against a Jewish Synagogue -- James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen.

The African-American community has been silent about what is happening, cringing every time a new terrorist plot is foiled and shows a black male face. President Obama for the first time since running for office used the word, "systemic" to describe the huge security failure, but racial profiling is also systemic and often skirted.

No matter how hard one tries to denounce and deny, race, ethnicity, and religion (Islam) will become a factor in profiling passengers who might board any flight to the United States from any country. The New York Times reports, "Citizens of 14 nations, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria who are flying to the United States, will be subjected indefinitely to the intense screening at airports worldwide." It appears the United States and its European allies have completed a cost-benefit analysis of its National security systems and will sacrifice more than some diplomatic ties with countries it has "friendly" relationships with, possibly now making a collaborative fight against terrorism lip service. Americans should expect these same countries to retaliate in-kind when it comes to airport screening and visa entry requirements. As the NYT states, "Rather than screen all passengers, these officials said, the government needed to focus on passengers who might be a threat."

"[This new worldwide security measure is] an unethical, ineffective and counterproductive means of counter terrorism," says Alejandro Beutel, Government Liaison, Muslim Public Affairs Council. "This undermines our stated commitment to Democratic values and Civil Liberties. This is propaganda victory for the terrorists and does nothing to add to our National security. This is a wrong headed approach that casts a wide net of suspicion over entire countries instead of gathering intelligence that focuses on the criminal activities of those few dangerous individuals."

Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and others are calling on the U.S. to enact the same measures implemented by Israel's El Al airline which has not had an incident in over thirty years. During the Bush Administration, Secretary Rice spoke privately spoke to Minister of Defense Ehud Barak on more than one occasion about the racial profiling of certain Americans (the black ones) coming into Israel. El Al constantly singles out young Arabs as well as passengers of color sometimes flanking the passenger with two armed security guards at JFK airport even after they passed through the double layers of screening.

California Legal Secretary and former Chief Deputy Attorney Peter Siggins said, "Recent surveys [since September 11, 2001] indicate that 66% of whites and 71% of African-Americans support the ethnic profiling of people who look to be of middle-eastern descent."An interesting irony African Americans categorically reject being profiled for driving while black, but have no problem with Arabs being treated in this manner.

Thanks to a 23-year-old black man who deceptively looks like an innocent boy and the United States' initial failure to stop him in his tracks, African-Americans, Arabs and the Muslim Diaspora all have something in common. They are more easily viewed as terrorists, and there's no escaping it. It's the proverbial perception that dictates reality.

Muslims in America are diverse communities within communities often separating themselves from each other as well as from social and political discourse inclusive of aggressive lobbying efforts that would influence the outcomes of some of these serious issues of flying while Arab or Muslim, profiling, and discrimination. It would behoove African-American, Arab and Muslim Leadership to come together immediately to fight against what will become increasingly devastating consequences -- alienating both communities inside the United States and throughout the world.