The naïve victims of 9/11

Written by Indrani Balaratnam Friday, 14 December 2012
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Last night, I was taken aback when an Australian friend of mine told me that he had flown out of his home country nine times, but had only NOT been stopped and held back for questioning by customs on two of those occasions.

I felt angry for him – regardless of the fact this was not a man who even remotely resembled the profile of a “typical ‘War on Terror’ terrorist” aside from being Asian, even if he did, how could customs stop this man on so many occasions and embarrass him in this way and not expect some form of backlash against them?  How can they get away with treating so many people like this on a daily basis on no solid ground aside from their ethnicity or their religion? Surely if one of these people weren’t angry at the system already, behavior like this is simply creating enemies before our eyes?

However, what came next is what shocked me the most in this story.  My friend was accepting of the amount of times he had been searched and questioned, did not have any complaints about having to be taken to a separate room for at least an hour to answer a firing line of questions and rather, encouraged this method of counter-terrorism.  In his words, “Indra, it works, it makes sense and this is the way that we catch those terrorists, so I’m all for it and I have no issue.” 

People are accepting what is happening to them without even acknowledging the sheer prejudice and racism that is involved in the counter-terrorism efforts.  Even if they do accept that there is racism, there is an ill-judged belief that racism is necessary in the War on Terror because realistically, “most of the terrorists are Asian Muslims so we are wasting time targeting anyone else.”  Incorrect.  It has been proven that this form of targeting has led to errors whereby terrorists who do not “fit the bill” have slipped through – take Richard Reid for example.  Furthermore, law enforcement officials have provided potential “terrorists” with an exact profile of the type of people they are targeting.  Are we foolish enough believe that the people who are smart enough to outsmart national security can’t change their image to avoid being selected under this profile?  Racial profiling does not work; it is weakening any form of intelligent counter-terrorism initiative and it is making relations with the Asian and Muslim community worse, to the point where I await the backlash.

But no officer, please do not apologise for the inconvenience, it’s no trouble. And don’t worry about compensating me for this misunderstanding, I won’t tell anyone. Because at the end of the day it is my fault that I got stopped today – it is my fault for being brown. 

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