The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) began 2010 by complaining about new security measures at U.S. airports that are now being enforced by the Transportation Security Administration.
CAIR objects to the new regulations, which are being instituted in response to the attempted Christmas Day suicide bombing of Northwest Flight 253. Existing security procedures failed to prevent terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who hid explosives in his underwear, from boarding the plane in Amsterdam en route to Detroit. The attack failed only because Abdulmutallab failed to detonate his bomb and was subdued by passengers.
The nearly-successful terrorist attack exposed a "potentially dangerous" security failure, President Obama said Tuesday. The new regulations, which require anyone traveling through 13 majority-Muslim nations and Cuba be subject to enhanced screening, are part of a larger effort to prevent future terrorists from bringing down another plane.
The Muslim-majority nations subject to the enhanced screening measures for travelers headed to the United States are Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad complained that under the new security measures "almost every American Muslim who travels to see family or friends or goes on pilgrimage to Mecca will automatically be singled out for special security checks – that's profiling." Awad added that the regulations would only serve "to alienate and stigmatize Muslims" and would do "nothing" to improve security.
In a commentary distributed by CAIR on Monday, Awad said law enforcement should not be permitted to take religion into account when conducting security checks: "First look at behavior, not at faith or skin color. Then spend what it takes to obtain more bomb sniffing dogs, to install more sophisticated bomb-detection equipment and to train security personnel in identifying the behavior of real terror suspects."
But the Investigative Project on Terrorism's executive director, Steven Emerson, noted that it would be folly to rule out ethnicity or religion in deciding who to refer for secondary screening at the airport.
"Ethnicity is one of the factors that should be included in the profile, After all, what is profiling? You're extrapolating the common characteristics of terrorist attacks," Emerson said. "100% of the terrorist attacks against the United States last year were carried out by Muslim jihadists. So, if that's the one common factor, let's include that in the mix."
Read more of Emerson's analysis of the need to reform airport screening procedures here.
Jim Kouri, a vice president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, interviewed former New York Police Department detective Sid Frances, who likened Awad's security prescription to grade-school discipline.
These are dramatic actions in response to emerging threats and should be subject to a vigorous public debate by responsible parties. Given its record, it's far from clear whether CAIR belongs in that arena.
In a bit of irony, CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper appeared on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" Tuesday night, arguing that the new measures play into Al Qaeda's argument that America is at war with Islam.
"And when you profile people, when you pull them out of line based on the fact that they are Muslim or they look like they are Arab, Al Qaeda wins," Hooper said.
As we've noted repeatedly, CAIR has been among the leading voices claiming the U.S. war on terror is a war on Islam. Read more about CAIR's blanket opposition to responsible anti-terror measures here.