Thursday, 5 July 2007

Racial profiling: why not?

The Daily Express reports that there have been calls for "racial profiling" to be used in the application of spot checks of members of the public at sites likely to be targeted by terrorists. At present this is not allowed, with the result that, in the words of one police officer:
At the moment we are stopping middle class, white pensioners and while we are searching their vehicle another car with four men of Middle Eastern or Asian appearance goes sailing past towards the airport and we have missed them.

The police on the ground want to do their job but we are being hampered by the rules. We are told that there is no intelligence to indicate what a bomber may look like. But you only have to look at all the people who have been linked to or convicted of terror-related activities in this country to see that there is a definite profile.
Predictably, the Muslims don't like it: the Muslim Council of Britain's Khalid Sofi complained that:
Racial profiling would result in increased racism and has the potential to be predominantly used against Muslims and ethnic minorities.
Which would seem to me to be rather the point: if you're going to use racial profiling, then of course you're going to target certain racial or religious groups more than others. That's what racial profiling means.

Where I would disagree with Sofi is on the question whether this would be a bad thing: I don't think it would be. The fact is that, as the police officer quoted above pointed out, the vast majority of Islamic terrorists, in Britain and elsewhere, have been either Arabs or Pakistanis. Virtually none have been white. As the police are only able to stop a finite number of people, then it is surely going to be a more efficient and effective use of their resources to stop Arabs and Pakistanis, who are simply more likely to be terrorists. Of course, white people should not be entirely ignored - it is not impossible that Britain could see a white suicide bomber - but racial groups should be targeted in some sort of proportion to the threat their members pose. That's not so much racism, as plain common sense.

Whether these calls for a common sense approach to fighting terrorism will actually be heeded is unclear: it's not at all clear that, for the liberal elite, the needs of public safety are not outweighed by the sensitivities of "oppressed minorities".

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