The War's Most Agonizing Issue
he day after 9-11, Texas
police arrested two Indian
Muslim men riding a train
and carrying about $5,000
in cash, black hair dye, and box cut-
ters like those used to hijack four
planes just one day earlier.
The police held the pair initially on
immigration charges (their U.S. visas
had expired); when further inquiry
turned up credit card fraud, that kept
them longer in detention. But law
enforcement's real interest, of course,
had to do with their possible connec-
tions to Al Qaida.
To investigate this matter — and
here our information comes from one
of those two Indian Muslims, Ayub
Ali Khan, after he was released — the
authorities put them through some
pretty rough treatment.
Khan says the interrogation "terrorized"
him. He recounts how "five to six men
would pull me in different directions very
roughly as they asked rapid-fire questions
... Then suddenly they would brutally
throw me against the wall."
They also asked him political ques-
tions: Had he, for example, "ever dis-
cussed the situation in Palestine with
Eventually exonerated of connec-
Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle
East Forum and author of Militant
Islam Reaches America. His e-mail
address is: Pipes@MEForum.org
Lions to terrorism and freed from jail,
Khan is not surprisingly bitter about
his experience, saying that he and his
traveling partner were singled out on
the basis of profiling: "I was caught
because I was a Muslim." This is self-
evidently correct; had Khan not been a
Muslim, the police would have had lit-
tle interest in him and his box cutters.
Khan's tribulation brings to attention
the single most delicate and agonizing
issue in prosecuting the war on terror.
Does singling out Muslims for addi-
Does singling out
Muslims for addi-
tional scrutiny serve
a purpose? And if so,
is it legally and
tional scrutiny serve a purpose? And if
so, is it legally and morally acceptable?
In reply to the first question — yes,
enhanced scrutiny of Muslims makes
good sense, for several reasons:
• In the course of their assaults on
Americans, Islamists . — the supporters
of militant Islam — have killed close to
4,000 persons since 1979, and they are
plotting to kill many more. No other
Jews In The Trenches
Washington, D. C.
ewish community relations
activists around the country may
not have the high profile of the
communal talking heads in New
York or the big-time lobbyists in
Washington, but in the coming year
they're going to be on the front lines of
some of the community's toughest battles.
Many of those fights will take place
in city halls and statehouses, commu-
nity centers and churches, away from
the media glare in Washington.
They may be underpaid and over-
worked and dismissed as amateurs by
some of the big organizational
machers, but they are the Jewish com-
munity's early warning system and
advance troops; they are the ones who
get clobbered with problems long
before the communal headliners start
James D. Sesser is a Washington correspon-
dent. His e-mail address is jbesser@attmet
blast-faxing their latest sound bites.
Here are a handful of big challenges
that will affect Jewish community rela-
tions councils in the upcoming year.
• War fallout. Today, polls show a
strong majority of Americans support
President Bush's determination to oust
Iraq's Saddam Hussein, but that sup-
port is thin and could evaporate
quickly if the impending military
action isn't as quick and painless as
administration officials suggest.
The embryonic anti-war movement
could gain substantial traction if the
war turns sour, and that's very bad
news for the Jewish community for
one reason: that emerging movement
is riddled with vehement anti-Israel
ideology and, in some cases, outright
The big Jan. 18 protest rally in
Washington was organized by
ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and
End Racism), a group responsible for
group has remotely the same
scrutiny be permitted?
past record or future intentions.
To ask this question is to
• While most Muslims are
answer it. If Americans want to
not Islamists and most
protect themselves from Islamist
Islamists are not terrorists, all
terrorism, they must temporari-
Islamist terrorists are Muslims.
ly give higher priority to securi-
(In rare circumstances, non-
ty concerns than to civil liber-
Muslims provide help; thus
tarian sensitivities. Preventing
the New York lawyer Lynne
Islamists from wreaking further
Stewart is charged with help-
damage implies the regrettable
ing Omar Abdel Rahman, an
step of focusing on Muslims.
imprisoned terrorist leader.)
Commentary Not to do so is an invitation to
• Islamist terrorists do not
appear spontaneously but
This solemn reality suggests
emerge from a milieu of religious sanc-
four thoughts: First, as Khan's experi-
tion, intellectual justification, financial
ence shows, Muslims are already sub-
support and organizational planning.
jected to added scrutiny; the time has
These circumstances — and this is
come for politicians to catch up to
the unpleasant part — point to the
reality and formally acknowledge what
imperative of focusing on Muslims.
are now quasi-clandestine practices.
There is no escaping the unfortu-
Doing so places these in the public
nate fact that Muslim government
arena where, to the benefit of all, they
employees in law enforcement, the
can openly be debated.
military, and the diplomatic corps
Second, because having to focus
need to be watched for connections to
heightened attention on Muslims is
terrorism, as do Muslim chaplains in
inherently so unpleasant, it needs to be
prisons and the armed forces. Muslim
conducted with utmost care and tact, -
visitors and immigrants must undergo
remembering above all that seven out
additional background checks.
of eight Muslims are not Islamists and
Mosques require a scrutiny beyond
fewer still are connected to terrorism.
that applied to churches, synagogues,
Third, this is an emergency measure
and temples. Muslim schools require
that should end with the war on ter-
increased oversight to ascertain what is
being taught to children.
Finally, innocent Muslims who must
Singling out a class of persons by
endure added surveillance can console
their religion feels wrong, if not down-
themselves with the knowledge that
right un-American, prompting the
their security too is enhanced by these
question: even if useful, should such
ugly pro-Palestinian rallies last
year. One of its current proj-
ects: promoting an interna-
tional tribunal to indict the
.U.S. and Israel for war crimes.
Their job won't be to mobi-
lize support for the Iraq war —
already, the community is far
from unanimous on that, and
differences are likely to grow if
the war is not quick and clean
— but to ensure that legiti-
War And Israel
mate dissent in their commu-
Despite the moderate tone of
nities does not spill over into
JAM ES D.
anti-Israel animus or anti-
the March 18 protests, the
organizing group is so radical
• Black-Jewish relations.
and so biased on Mideast ques-
They're worsening; black anti-
tions that even many Jewish
left-wingers feel uncomfortable
Semitism is on the rise, and the
Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has
at its events.
become the primary venue for criticism
A nasty turn in the expected Iraq war
in an overwhelmingly pro-Israel
— huge U.S. casualties, protracted
Congress. Some CBC members even
urban warfare, new terrorism on these
provide forums for hostile voices such as
shores, a big hit to the U.S. economy —
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
could cause that movement to mush-
room, carrying the anti-Israel element
And black-Jewish relations could
feel the impact of a Democratic presi-
along with it.
dential primary contest that features
Local Jewish community relations
both the Rev. Al Sharpton, .a flamboy-
activists will play a role in ensuring that
grass-roots discontent over the Iraq war
ant, highly controversial civil rights
leader, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-
does not provide cover for anti-Israel
BESSER on page 36