Profile Me

Once people who look like me stop blowing themselves up – then I’ll get upset at being profiled. Not before.

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Ben-Gurion International Airport
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Raheem Kassam
On 7 September 2011 12:18

I never thought I’d write this but I have something in common with a member of the Young Fabians. Well, two things in common – but I promise you it stops there.

Shazia Yamin and I both have ‘Muslim sounding names’, as she so brashly articulates in her blog post on her recent visit to Israel. We also have both recently dealt with strict interrogation based on ‘racial profiling’ – though I contest that this was based on religion rather than race, we’ll use Shazia’s terminology for the sake of argument.

She writes about her recent ‘detention in the Muslim room’ while travelling to Israel – and goes so far as to say that while she ‘understands the need for Israel to contain security and terrorist risks’ that during her three hour wait, she felt an ‘invisible niqab of anger’ grow across her face. Pardon me for saying – this isn’t the calm rhetoric one would expect from this young leftist traveller. On the back of this, Yamin says she wonders whether the Israeli response to the security threat might exacerbate the threat it seeks to contain.

Yamin clearly does not understand the existential threat to the state of Israel as she so professes. Anyone with an iota of sense in this area could fully grasp why the border authorities would detain someone with Pakistani heritage and a Muslim name travelling with a political organisation based in the ‘delegitimisation capital of the Western world’.

My own experiences when recently travelling at short notice to the United States last month was not dissimilar, though I’ll give Shazia the fact that Israel is stricter – the Transport Security Administration (TSA) weren’t exactly all smiles when they found fifty pages of terrorist profiles in my hand luggage (research for work which I had read on the plane).

After a thorough bag search, almost identical to the one Shazia describes, I was on my way. I can’t help but wondering if she kicked up more of a fuss, rather than simply complying. Either way, here’s the kicker...

People with names like Raheem Kassam and Shazia Yamin are those responsible for atrocities that Israel experiences week upon week, as Kassam rockets themselves hail down on Israeli civilians. Why in heaven’s name should Israeli or American security be concerned with what John Smith is doing in their country, when the most virulent threat emerges from people who look and sound like me? I’m all for this kind of profiling.

As an Iranian friend once said to me within the confines of the British Parliament no less, “Once people who look like me stop blowing themselves up – then I’ll get upset at being profiled. Not before.” Hear hear.

Shazia’s blog post then delves into the ridiculous as she uses the BBC Question Time audience, usually a gaggle of hard leftists and welfare statists, to vindicate her ‘niqab of anger’. ‘This type of profiling would cause an outcry on BBC Question Time in the UK’, she adds – as if this were a representative or even sane model upon which to base your political analyses.

I urge that Shazia try to use models which are at least somewhat comparable. Britain and Israel are not under the same existential threat, even though both are under threat from domestic and international terrorism.

Ten years ago on Sunday, nineteen men with Muslim names boarded US aircraft and flew them into government buildings and the two towers that stood tall over the New York skyline. Since then, people with Muslim sounding names have gone on to radicalise, terrorise and delegitimize Western nations and Israel over and over again.

That isn’t to say that John Smith or Sean O’Connor pose no threat – but the response must remain proportionate to the evidence.

Ten years is one second on the clock of geopolitics. I for one hope that until jihadist threats against the West are truly diminished, that Western and Israeli authorities will not stop profiling visitors into their countries. 

Raheem Kassam is the Executive Editor of The Commentator and tweets at @RaheemJKassam

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