Racial profiling entails using a person's race to ascertain one involvement in a criminal activity without putting into consideration the available evidence for the criminal case. Racial profiling has been a contentious issue in the United States and all over the globe, particularly to the extent on which the action infringes the very fundamental human rights and civil liberties protected by the law. Such an approach by law enforcement agencies and officers is an ineffective strategy, since law enforcement agencies overlook the fundamental evidence, and the suspicion is usually based on an individual's race and the perception of the society relative to that race. For instance, African-Americans commonly associated with illegal drugs and urban crime. On a similar account, Arabs and Muslims are associated with terrorism. The September 11 attacks presented an opportunity to instigate a racial stereotyping against the Muslims and Arabs in the United States, especially those of Middle East origin. This research paper attempts to investigate the extent to which September 11 attacks influenced racial profiling in the US and later to the rest of the world. Arguing from two perspectives, racial profiling has worsened after the attacks and that racial profiling has not worsened post 9/11, a conclusion is reached basing on the collected facts and evidence.
How racial profiling has worsened
After the September 11 attacks, Arabs and Muslims living in the United States have been subjected to intense racial profiling. This is due to perceptions that Arabs and Muslims are likely perpetrators of terrorism. Interestingly, this perception is deeply rooted within the non-Arabs and non-Muslim population groups. As a result, law enforcement agencies in the US are using this assumption and perception to associate Arab ethnicity and Muslims with terrorist acts. The underlying fact is that most Arabs and Muslims living in the United States are not terrorists, but law abiding citizens. A 2002 report from the Human Rights Watch in the US revealed that at least 1200 Arab Americans, mostly from the Middle East and South Asia, faced detainment exclusive of formal charges directed at them. The same report asserted that the United States Justice Department abused and violated the fundamental human rights of the Arab and Muslim detainees.
The law enforcement agencies perceived terrorism as a reserve for the Arabs and Muslims in the US, as a result, suspecting any Arab and Muslim for their involvement or attempted involvement in a terrorist activity. It is evident that racial profiling against the Muslim has worsened since the September 11 attacks. This worsened further after the enactment of the Patriots Act by President Bush, and the Act targeted mainly Arab Americans by linking them to terrorism without any evidence or questioning. In that context, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement authorities went overboard in searching the homes of the Arab Americans, and by forcefully investigating their financial records and personal information. This is a violation of human rights based on race and ethnicity, with the target being mainly people of Arab and Muslim origin.
Another indicator that racial profiling against the Arabs and Muslims in the United States has worsened since September 11 is that the federal government is significantly relying on racial profiling as means of counter terrorism strategy. This is widely evident in the entry points of the United States. Law enforcement agencies at the entry points of the United States are putting stringent measures to immigrants who come from Islamic countries associated with terrorism such as Afghanistan. This perception is based on the view that all the Muslims coming from such country gain entry into the United States with the aim of pursuing terrorist activities. Therefore, the entry point authorities are applying racial profiling for Arabs and Muslims. According to a 2004 report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), dubbed Sanctioned Bias: Racial Profiling since 9/11, it is evident that there is an increase in anti-immigrant perception towards the Arabs and the Muslim both from the public and the law enforcement agencies. In fact, after the September 11 attacks, there is an official policy in the United States that grants law enforcement agencies jurisdiction to question individuals especially Arab Americans without posting criminal charges. Such suspicions are based on race and religion; being Arabic and of Islam faith and only attempts to associate them with terrorist acts.
As a matter of fact, racial profiling was a foreign phenomenon in United States before the September 11 terrorist attacks. Moreover, if there existed racial profiling, it could only be associated with common crimes in United States, and of which mostly was applied to the African-American community. Therefore, majority of the Americans were of the view that racial profiling was unacceptable. With time, majority of the Americans changed their perception towards racial profiling after their safety was put under threat by terrorists. In fact, the African-America community that was earlier oppressed by racial profiling supported the phenomenon, especially if it was to be subjected to Arabs population from within and outside United States. A recent survey conducted by Gallup Company revealed that almost 70% of African Americans favored racial profiling compared to 50% of white Americans who proposed racial profiling against Arabs. Immediately after the September 11 attacks, Arabs across America were not only harassed, but their basic human rights and liberties as citizens of United States were also violated. Basically, like any other government with a concern of its citizens, national awareness and increased security measures became a priority for the United States government.
However, questioning and deportation of innocent Muslims and Arabs was not the answer to war against terrorism in United States. To understand the magnitude of racial profiling and its negativity, one has to consider various incidents used by law enforcement agencies that can only be termed as unnecessary and illogical. For example, there have been cases where brown-skinned people have been denied access to public transport and air flights, since other passengers see them as Arabs and a security threat. Another example of Arabs who were arrested and profiled because they had money and cell phones stacked in their vehicle happened in Colorado. Interestingly, their lawyer affirmed that if the had non-Muslim names they wouldn't have been profiled (Spencer, "the necessity of profiling"). Amid all the intensified security check-ups at airports, railway terminus and bus stations, other American racial groups and government agencies are more than ready to infringe other people's liberties. United states have been known of its respect of human rights and democracy, but racial profiling against Arabs and Muslims after September 11is an indication that America has stooped to low in preservation of human rights.
How racial profiling has not worsened
Nevertheless, it would be inappropriate to view racial profiling as a non-beneficial policy to United States considering that millions of American citizens are at risk of death by terrorism. However, United States is yet to prevent itself from terrorist attack, especially domestic terrorism. Although since the September 11 attacks, there has never been an attack of similar magnitude, racial profiling is yet to be reduced in any significant form till date. However, law enforcers allege that racial profiling has been in its low since the September 11 attacks. Law enforcement agencies argue that security officers mandated to conduct racial profiling data have been assigned military duties, mostly in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. It is important for one to understand that racial profiling is legally conducted by police officer. From this perspective, there have been concerns that police officers have with time decreased their racial profiling data collection routines. Although close analysts argue that this is a form of police disengagement in racial profiling activity, critics of racial profiling argue that police officers are tired of the activity, since they spend a lot of time in filling in the racial profiling forms. This argument can be supported by the fact that various departments of police in United States have been subject of criticism due to their laxity and minimal productivity. In addition, recent interventions by American Muslims and human rights activist have tried to criticize the racial profiling activity in United States. Immediately, after the September 11 terrorism attack, Muslim were vigorously harassed and abused across United States and some were falsely accused by anti-Arab and anti-Islam groups. These interventions are in form of legal support to those who have been interrogated and detained without a legal procedure, protests against generalized profiling and protection of civil rights through legal representation by human rights activist attorneys'. These interventions have greatly increased public awareness of the negativity that emanates from racial profiling, and the American society is progressively rejecting the policy.
Laws against racial profiling
The United States constitution prohibits racial profiling through the federal law, a fact that may not be in the public domain according to a NYU survey done on American law by Susan Akram and Kevin Johnson in 2003. Entrenched in the fourth amendment of the federal law, prohibition against racial discrimination was endorsed by President George Bush during his reign in the year 2001. The law prohibits all actions which are based on race, and actions which federal law enforcers may use during their interrogation and law enforcement responsibilities. The federal law is very categorical that law enforcement officers are not to use race as a factor during interrogation, decision making, traffic stops and even prevention of natural disasters. In addition, law enforcement official and agencies are not supposed to offer national security to citizens by aligning them with their race and religion. I is therefore, unfortunate that the very government, through the convention of the congress have violated the very same laws entrenched within the supreme law of united the United States. The spontaneous reaction of the law enforcement agencies of the United States and the United States department of defense is ill intended and misplaced. For example, the mere insinuation that all Arabs and Muslims are potential terrorists is unreasonable. It can only be aligned as a transgression towards personal freedom of worship and religion, not to mention that America has thousands of Arabs who are not necessarily Muslims.
According to Bernard Harcourt, while reviewing Muslim profiles during the post September 11 attacks and the effectiveness of racial profiling and how the act violates freedom of non-discrimination, he is of the view that assuming that racial profiling can be effective in preventing terrorism is misplaced and only amounts to assertion that United States is incapable of offering security to its citizens. Racial profiling can be compared to United States defeat by Arab countries and religion, but not terrorists. Currently, there are inadequate state laws that ban the act of racial profiling in law enforcement agencies. Presently twenty-seven states in the United States have not enacted any anti-racial profiling laws. Only 4 states in the US have implemented laws that prevent profiling based on religion and not race. This case worsens because states that have anti-racial profiling laws are not implementing them effectively.
Xenophobia and Islamophobia
It is imperative that United States government and the general society own up to the fact, there is an emerging trend of islamophobia and xenophobic attitude in the country. A critical analysis of the Islam will reveal that Islam religion do not advocate for terrorism as an act of religion. In fact, terrorism is only aggravated by a mere section of Islam extremists who are at the pursuit of their won interests. American Muslims do not conform to extremism and a close study of American Islam edifies that American Muslims are contemporary Muslims who conforms to secularity in a secular society. Islam extremists do not tolerate secularity and western cultures'. The fundamental issue is that American need to study the psychological and behavioral patterns of terrorists before subjecting every Arab and Muslim to racial profiling.
The September 11 terrorism attacks not only introduced racial profiling in United States in a new dimension, but it also encouraged the same in other parts of the world. Britain and other European for example, have taken over the phenomenon and have become pro-campaigners of racial profiling against Arabs and Muslims. Britain and many other European countries are known of their close ties with the United States and have also been targets of terrorism attacks after September 11, 2001. Muslims of Arabic origin are verbally attacked and assaulted in Europe as evidenced in daily news in the media. There has been cases where properties belonging to Arabic Muslims are destroyed and Muslims attacked in their places of worship; mosques.
The world may be against racial profiling, governments and constitutions may prohibit the use of race and religion as factors to determine who is a terrorist, but racial profiling still remains prevalent since the United States bombings on September 11. Although the United States have denied the continued use of racial profiling by its key law enforcement agencies, the practice is still used in airports and areas vulnerable to entry of terrorists within the boarders of the united states. The current efforts by human rights organization and American-Muslims groups in the United States will rarely be fruitful, if the majority of the Americans still prefer racial profiling as means to their security. Nevertheless, the United States government is given a responsibility by its citizens to instill proper security, but at the same time observance of personal and civil rights cannot be compromised.