An end to racial profiling?

If you thought you knew what a alleged terrorist looks like, this photo may have changed your mind … 

She’s Colleen LaRose, also known as “Jihad Jane” – the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Pennsylvania woman charged with terror offences by the FBI.

This blogger from Pakistan hopes the case will mean the end to people getting harassed at airports because their clothes and and skin-colour tick the terrorist stereotype box. 

Another writer argues that it demonstrates profiling makes America less safe.

But those who maintain their backing for profiling – in comments here and this blog post, for example – base their argument on statistics, saying this case is an exceptional one.

Does this case change your mind about racial profiling?

43 Responses to “An end to racial profiling?”

  1. 1 steve
    March 15, 2010 at 11:06

    You could easily respond by saying “so profile converts to islam”

  2. 2 Parry
    March 15, 2010 at 11:21

    This is going to be an ongoing story. How do you differentiate a Pakistani from an Indian? How would you differentiate an Ethiopian from an Eritrean? Or for that matter an Al-shabab from an ordinary Somali? Profiling will not help ease the situation. We possibly need to find solutions that are more practical and comprehensible.

  3. 3 patti in cape coral
    March 15, 2010 at 12:38

    Predictably, once racial profiling came in to play, terrorists evolved around it.

  4. 4 Craig
    March 15, 2010 at 12:38

    How about profiling behaviour rather than race?

  5. 5 Nigel
    March 15, 2010 at 12:41

    The hard truth is that the statistcs and laws of probability point in certain directions for certain crimes and if people are stopped and searched because of these realities and are innocent then bad luck. If someone not fitting the profile slips through then the profile has to be adjusted but one mis doesn’t a rule make.

  6. 6 Parry
    March 15, 2010 at 12:50

    Absolutely right. Come to think of it, 90% of drugs get into the US from Latin America. And by logic if we were to put all Latinos as a negative profile, what remains of the day to day contribution they have made and keep making for the growth of the country? Profiling behavior and individual background (without any shadow on immediate or extended family members or class, creed or color) would rather be a more logical solution. It might cost a few extra bucks but it will leave a happier and more considerate society for our generations to follow.

  7. 7 Ibrahim in UK
    March 15, 2010 at 12:58

    You could easily put up a picture of Timothy McVeigh or someone from the KKK or someone from the Jewish Defence League, or a member of ETA, or a member of the IRA etc… if you wanted to blast the theory of what a terrorist looks like. The way the question is posed implies a stereotype that all terrorism is Islamic terrorism, and that Muslims have a certain look.

    It is these stereotypes that are a big weakness to the anti-terrorism system. Terrorism is not restricted to a particular belief; and beliefs are not restricted to a particular physical appearance. If the system is restricted to be as narrow-minded as prevaling stereotypes, then terrorists will easily find the weakness and adapt their tactics. The exception will become the norm.
    How many lives must be lost before the stereotype catches up?

  8. 8 Linda from Italy
    March 15, 2010 at 13:14

    If we are confining ourselves here to religion-inspired terrorism then it would be impossible for profiling to work anyway, at least the broad-brush, ethnicity/nationality -based airport security approach, because your religion is not normally on your passport, at least in the EU it isn’t, and of course members of religious groups, including Muslims, come in all shapes, sizes and colours.
    I don’t know how serious Steve was being, about profiling converts, but it is accepted wisdom that adult converts to any religion are generally far more zealous than those whose religion was just an accident of birth – just look at one Tony Blair.

  9. 9 Cabe UK
    March 15, 2010 at 13:22

    No – ‘racial’ doesn’t really come into it. There will always be Profiling – ethinc, religious, geographical, physical, psychological etc, – going on in the background. Not sure why the blogger is complaining though – he obviously has not experienced a camera on every street corner watching your every move ! The UK has just discovered a crowd monitoring system that picks out erratic/ suspicious behaviour in crowds, and if a ‘body’ in a crowd separates itself from a package. The monitor will connect the two and then tracks the ‘body’…. and this ultimately is the culmination of “profiling”…. (heaven help you if you misplace your handbag! 🙂 )
    = Not sure why such surprise either from the woman’s neighbours?
    Years ago religious crazies really stood out in the hoard of *normal* urbanite clone terrorists (unless you were IRA)!
    NOW its a *normal* urbanite crazy, standing out in a hoard of religious clones whose terrorism dominates the world? The ‘types’ have just reversed.
    Its no good complaining about it -if ordinary people don’t want to get bunched up with their terrorist pals then they have to go sort them out. Profiling is a human trait, its not suddenly sprung up because of ‘terrorism’? We all do it subconsiously and things like Global terrorism hones our senses and our technologies and make our awareness evolve much faster. It’s definitely here to stay.

  10. 10 Peter Calabar
    March 15, 2010 at 13:38

    I don’t care a tinker’s cuss how Jihad Jane looks, racial profiling is the way to go insofar as the greater majority of terrorists are Middle Eastern, South East Asian and Muslim. It would be unpardonably dumb to imagine that on account of Jihad Jane every Caucasian non-Muslim female must be subjected to closer scrutiny.

    Let me make this abundantly clear: racial profiling has all to do with cutting down the work-load of an already stretched intelligence Agency. It is not about targeting or victimizing innocent people. If, as has been abundantly proven, most terrorists fit into a particular mold, then by all means fix your focus on such mold or profile; and if the enemy moves to a new group in the same numbers that justified picking on the previous group, then you swing as well. But never before that. Jiihad Jane, Umar Muttalab and Timothy McVeigh are but dots in a sea of Middle Easterner Muslims who blow up anything that is western or Israeli.

    Or else, please plan on employing your entire citizenry to keep track of the rest of the world, and good luck to you.

    • 11 Sharafadeen A. (Sokoto)
      March 17, 2010 at 20:06

      First and foremost let me acknowledge Ibrahim’s in UK comment (Jazakallahu Khiran) for reminding those who were clearly stereotyping.
      @ Peter Calabar, your comments is not surprising to me to the fact the you’re being brain washed to believed that most terrorist act were carried out by Muslim’s. Do you forget about the IRA in northern Ireland, the ETA in Spain, how many years have they being terrorising, and how many lives lost therein? what about Xtain crusaders in Spain (when it was an Islamic State, or how they shade blood in Jerusalam in it was in the hand of the muslim caliph, or what about Sabra and Shatilla refuge camp in the 1982, where Palestinian Refugees (both women, children and the old) were ruthlessly massacred, by the xtains (Phalangists) who were backed by the Isreali forces. I guess this are no terrorism since it was not the Muslim that carried them out?
      Another example was when Timothy McVeigh bombed Oklahoma Trade Centre or thereabout is was first alleged (or suspecting finger) was pointing to Muslims not until later it became obvious that it wasn’t the Muslim terrorist but a US Army personnel Timothy McVeigh that carries it out.
      It is just unfortunate that people don’t talk about the cause of terrorism and those that instigate it but those who were enraged by the evil, suffering melt upon them as terrorist (especially if they are Muslim’s)
      Yet Peter in Calabar talks about “Muslims who blow up anything that is western or Israeli” I do know when he have a very short memory of what is happen especially the current standoff in the East Jerusalem, if the Palestinian should be able to designate as bomb in Israel all over the world will condemn it as terrorism but not the act by the Israelis of building more Jewish settlement in the occupied territories (which everyone known to belongs to the Palestinian). About Jihad Jane, she tried to recruit people that offend what is very special to her and entire Muslim world, she is condemned but not he Lars Vilks who depicted our Beloved Prophet. Can you or anyone sincerely be please if someone depicts your Father, mother or your Prophet in the name of freedom of expression? If that is the case (freedom of expression if you are true with what you profess) then let anyone who do same as Jihad Jane exercise his/her freedom too.

  11. 12 Subhash C Mehta
    March 15, 2010 at 13:55

    It is an exception rather than a rule. Terror and terrorists have many faces, but most of them are being tracked, recognized and categorized in order to defeat/finish them through different strategies.

  12. 13 steve
    March 15, 2010 at 15:11

    Okay, how about religious profiling? It seems to me that 100% of muslims extremists are muslims. This lady is clearly mentally ill. Like Richard reid is. It’s not PC, but should the question be asked, do mentally ill people find islam attractive? If so, why?

    • 14 Jack Rainbow
      March 16, 2010 at 19:28

      I don’t have any facts about how many Muslims are extremists, or how many caucasians are extremists. My GUESS, however, is that the majority of extremists are Muslims. I can tell you that I do have scientific facts linking extreme experiences like being thrashed and beaten in childhood, with extreme behaviours in the adult. American adults indulge in extreme criminal behaviours and only a very few in extreme political behaviours. Abuse of American children takes place within a social setting, eg, schools and homes and their adult ‘acting out’ therefore, tends to be within a similar context. Abuse of Muslim children happens of course in the madrassas and in the home, where religion is always the primary context. Therefore Muslim adults act out in a religious context.
      Adults beaten in childhood are usually suffering from shock, anxiety and extreme anger, among other things, and when our feelings become very extreme, then we are approching what you would call mental illness. Not all adults beaten in childhood become mentally ill, although all continue to suffer as adults.
      I hope this answers your question.

  13. 15 nora
    March 15, 2010 at 15:21

    I think that the christian jewish los angeles goatfarming convert who was arrested in Pakistan might give a hint that you don’t have to look one way or another to adopt a militant belief system. Guerilla wars have been fought on the terrain of stereotypes since the Trojan Horse.

  14. 16 loudobservant
    March 15, 2010 at 15:53

    No, it does not.This is a scurge as well waterboarding is,and it is an ugly and an eyesore creation and brainchild od Bush,Chenney,Rumsfeld,Rowe,etc.And, it does smear and mar the image of USA in the world!!

  15. 17 Andrew in Australia
    March 15, 2010 at 16:21

    Don’t see how that absolves mid eastern or Islamic terrorists of their responsibility.

  16. 18 T
    March 15, 2010 at 16:37

    I’ll make a prediction. Even though this is evidence that not all “terrorists” are dark-skinned Muslim males, what’s next? The govt. will continue with profiling. why? Because much of the population has been conditioned to expect that to “keep us safe”.

    Repeat something over and over. And eventually a percentage of the population will believe it.

  17. 19 T
    March 15, 2010 at 16:39

    When was the last time you saw a light-skinned Muslim person on one of the cable news shows? Contrary to what the MSM says, Muslims are men and women who come in all shapes, colors and sizes.

  18. March 15, 2010 at 16:44

    “Jihad Jane”.Does not change my mind at all,she was a convert,and as Linda said,converts are more zealous than the original zealots.Don’t blame the west for profiling,blame the activists for putting their people under the microscope.Could someone suggest what the alternative is?

  19. 22 Nate, Portland OR
    March 15, 2010 at 18:36

    She doesn’t fit my notion of what an Islamic terrorist looks like, but in that mug shot she looks a lot like what I would imagine an American style right wing terrorist looks like. She looks unhinged.

    Actually I hear there is development towards building machines & software that can recognize agitated states based on facial expression and body language. I suspect those technologies are not yet ready for prime time, but the day may come when security can profile based on relatively objective assessments of emotional state rather than religious affiliation, country of origin or other discriminatory criteria. Of course, those fancy machines will need to actually see people for a significant period of time – no face covering allowed ladies!

    • 23 Linda from Italy
      March 16, 2010 at 12:59

      Small problem Nate, I am in an “agitated state” every time I’m forced to set foot on a plane, especially since you can’t even have a nerve-calming cigarette now.
      Flying cattle-truck class has got to be the worst possible way of travelling, cooped up a tin box, making a vile noise plus the pressure changes playing havoc with my ears, hanging around for hours at airports miles out of the city centre…….Now I’m likely to be arrested as a terrorist – give the train any day!

    • 24 Jack Rainbow
      March 16, 2010 at 19:33

      You need to satrt looking at why people are entering a stae where they can enact extreme behaviours. What would make you become extreme?

  20. 25 Clamdip
    March 15, 2010 at 18:41

    Cabe UK is right. Countries do profile but in America they are always looking for Al Queda sympathisers when they should be looking for other ethnic terrorist criminals and spies who can do worse damage to a country. I ‘m curious about the goat herder. Sometimes things are too unbelievable to be true.

  21. 26 Clamdip
    March 15, 2010 at 18:51

    Seems like a simple clue to possible terrorist training might be checking passports, visa and travel arrangements of the people heading to suspected countries but do the agencies do this? NOOOOOOOOOOO! That ‘s just too simple. Better to spend bizillions on expensive equipment to support war profiteers. That’s how we do it in America!

  22. 27 Dennis Junior
    March 15, 2010 at 19:29

    Does this case change your mind about racial profiling?

    No, simple solution–Racial Profiling works when done right such as in Israel….

    (Dennis Junior)

  23. 28 tanboontee
    March 16, 2010 at 03:55

    A person’s profile has little to do with his personality or inner quality.

    He or she might look offensive yet kind and harmless. On the other end, a smiling countenance could belong to a nasty cheat or a dirty backstabber.

  24. 29 Hardik Pokhrel
    March 16, 2010 at 04:21

    It’s just that the act of terror is not in the blood of the people who are apparently tagged as terrorist as a South Asian is born. One can differentiate from the race whether he/she is terrorist or not.Even people from my country Nepal do look like Indian OR Pakistani, yet no cases are found where they are charged of terror attacks.Yet the disparity continues from the United States.AND, it is shameful that this is happening from a country where once a its great leader dreamt of a place where people are not judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.

  25. 30 Bill in New England
    March 16, 2010 at 04:41

    Ok, I’ve studied the picture. They merely need to add transvestites to the list of those profiled.

    I dare you to publish this.

  26. March 16, 2010 at 07:12

    ALL security agencies at all airports are trained to look for and recognize certain type of behavior of all passengers based on previous experience and profiling. Is there any difference ?

  27. 32 Simon Morgan
    March 16, 2010 at 11:30

    Profiling (racial or otherwise) may be less than perfect, but it’s all we’ve got to try and sift out the bad guys. The fact of the matter is that while there are a couple of cases of caucasian ‘jihadists’ (and Australia has more than it’s fair share of them) the overwhelming majority of extremists and mad dogs emanate from Muslim countries.

    We have no choice but to scrutinize the citizens of these counties extremely carefully, especially when they travel.

    Fundamentalist Islam has changed life as we once knew it (basically the life we knew before that most inhuman of crimes took place on 9/11). Our world is now such that you cannot even carry a soft drink onto aeroplanes anymore!

  28. 33 Jeff Wadulo in Uganda
    March 16, 2010 at 12:05

    As the war on terror gets more complicated, so are the terrorists coming up with more innovative ways to achieve their objectives. Profiling, yes, helps narrow down searches to possible terrorists and this should continue without keeping an eye closed to possible terrorists outside the box. A terrorist can be anybody and that is a fact, but that depends on their objective. So one can say you will have different profiles for different kinds of terrorists with different objectives. Such is the war on terror and it has to become more innovative a well.

    Jeff in Kampala

  29. 34 Ibrahim in UK
    March 16, 2010 at 12:20

    It would be interesting to see how many terrorists have been captured at the airport as a result of increased racial profiling. Most of the terror attacks that we hear about and have been foiled have either been because of good prior intelligence (e.g. the liquid bomb group were monitored beforehand), or because in-flight passenger action (e.g. shoe bomber) or beacause of complete incompetence (e.g. pants bomber).
    Also would be interesting to see the number of terror attacks on US soil by racial profile, number of terror attacks on UK soil by racial profile, number of terror attacks in Europe by racial profile etc.
    Does the BBC (or anyone else) have reliable statistics?

  30. 35 jens
    March 16, 2010 at 14:41

    this is less a case of racial profiling considering that terrorists come in all shape and sizes. it is much more an act of surveilance. sombody calling herself “jihadjane” and surfs the net looking for like minded violent fundamentalists puts a target on her back.

    i have been interviewed by officials before getting on a plane in shipol. the questions sound inocent but i am sure there are certain behavioral patterns which can be recoognized. it seems to work pretty well in israel.

    one point about racial profiling in the USA. i fly quite a lot and i have seen memebrs of congress being search, an old lady with a zimmerframe, mothers etc, but hardly any of the ever so suspiciouse arabs, indians or pakistanies. It is numbers game more than anything.

  31. 36 Elias
    March 16, 2010 at 17:04

    Very simply, everyone should be deemed a possible terrorist and investigated thoroughly.

  32. 37 loudobservant
    March 16, 2010 at 21:19

    I was a victim of racial profiling only on Sarurday by TSA who chose to ransack my suitcase because I displayed a tag showing my name ( which is a Muslim name!!)
    It is definitely practised on the grounds of religion,colour of skin,appearance,esp.BEARD!!
    If they are on a hunt for terrorists, they should go outside the USA and carry out witch-hunts by molesting and harranguing and harassing innocent people of a sovereign nation,e.g.,IRAQ,Afghanistan,Somalia,etc.etc.

  33. 38 Abram
    March 17, 2010 at 03:16

    If modern humans are unable to distinguish between “Isaac-Eyes” and “Ishmael-eyes” engineers should better hurry up to develop genetic-eye-scanners.

  34. 39 Ronald Almeida
    March 17, 2010 at 08:05

    An end to racial profiling can only begin with human profiling.

  35. 40 Jim Currie
    March 17, 2010 at 19:21

    If you are looking for an apple in a street full of apples – you don’t post a reward for finding a pear!
    What a daft self-serving idea not to profile in case it causes offence. If it results in the apprehension of a mis-guided normal person or a homicidal maniac bent on killing innocents as well as guilty then so be it.

  36. 41 wayne job
    March 18, 2010 at 10:58

    I do not know about the rest of the people on this blog,but. Looking at the photograph of this women, she sure as hell terrifies me. Wayne.

  37. 42 steve
    March 18, 2010 at 14:15

    @ Loudobservant

    #1 Religion is not racial profiling.

    My last name sounds VERY islamic, and I don’t have my bag ransacked. It gets searched, like everyone else’s back does. Once in a w hile, you get picked for extra scrutiny. If you’ve ever flown from Canadian Cities to DCA(National Airport) you go through security twice. Once with everyone else, then another time at the gate, where they go through your carryon with a fine tooth comb, and use handheld metal detectors.

    How can you know that something is “Definetely” based upon a single experience? And certain races/ethnicities are not limited to having beards. I can grow a beard that could put Osama Bin Ladin’s to shame.

  38. 43 Cabe UK
    March 18, 2010 at 16:54

    @ Sharafadeen

    Hi Sharafadeen, I think you have to wake up and face the facts that the vast Majority of terrorist acts carried out in the world today are by Muslims.
    They have actually changed the way the world now works. Everything isabout security and is totally paranoid because of them. We never witnessed such Global security measures before 9/11 and every year something else a Muslim terrorist does shrinks our world and makes Global security measures even tighter. All other countries/creeds and cultures of terrorism pales beside the huge Quantity and destruction of the actions of Muslim terrorists.

    And, since you brought it up – “Freedom of expression” is just freedom to express opinions through speech or artwork and is a universal freedom that is just someones opinion. To take one personally or want to supress it within a population means that either the Leaders Or that population themselves, are insecure within themselves about what is being expressed or they use it as an excuse for a hidden agenda.
    Christians and Muslims share the same ‘God’ which according to his creation myth created the same World we all live in. I just find it strange that Muslims will spill over their borders to dictate or punish everyone else in the World if THEIR Prophet or THEIR God (which is the same as our God,!) is insulted – yet not a peep out of them if anything bad is expresssed Globally about the same Christian ‘God’ ? If ‘God’ never objects if we poke fun at him then Why should a mere mortal man object – it seems the prophet is more important than the God ?
    = Racial profiling is not really about ‘race’ but about the culture of different races which need to be clarified, just so that we can understand why certain groups of people pose a threat .

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