was northwest airlines wrong?

No, they were not.

I’m referring to the group of Mumbai-local Muslim men that were detained on a Northwest flight bound for Mumbai from Amsterdam after certain passengers (yes, even Indian ones) and crew noticed “suspicious behavior.” The press has been up in arms about the alleged maltreatment and clear religious insensitivity towards the group – but I believe what Northwest did was justified. Here is why.

First, we must try our best to separate two completely distinct issues here, two issues which beg to be combined, but for all logical purposes, cannot be. The first: is religious profiling an effective means of preventing certain acts of “terrorism” today; and the second: if there is a religious pattern amongst certain groups that are lashing out, why is that so?

The second question here is a complex undertaking, but it basically boils down to politics, imperialism (or, the money culture, as I like to call it), clashing idealogies, and a struggle over natural resources. These elements shape foreign policies around the world, and whether its the West’s pursuit of fossil fuels to feed their economic engines, America’s support of Israel, anyone’s support of America, or India and Pakistan fighting over a piece of land, certain injustices are undoubtedly done. In today’s world, it just so happens that those injustices are being disporportionately suffered by Islamic countries.

Now back to our first question. Did Northwest religiously profile those men? Of course they did. Is that wrong? Not today. Maybe tomorrow, next month, or next year, but today, it is a ground reality that there is a pattern amongst those who commit localized terrorist attacks (I say localized because I’m almost sure I will get a comment pointing out that countries like America and Israel are large “terrorist” organizations themselves – again, I believe that argument is more appropriate to bring up with respects to the first question above). If the last dozen major localized terror attacks were committed by one-eyed teenage albinos, my guess is any slightly suspicious behavior on any flight would garner the same reaction. This wasn’t a personal attack against the Muslim faith – it was simply an acknowledgement and recognition of an established pattern (of course, there are those that take advantage of this to demonize the entire faith, which is nothing short of sickening).

The Mumbai press should have focused their energy on helping us understand the issues behind the first question I have posted here, and not waste time triviliazing and sensationalizing issues which do not help us with a long-term solution.

5 Comments so far

  1. Akshay (unregistered) on September 4th, 2006 @ 5:35 pm

    Moral of the story don’t fly TWA – there is no difference between religious profiling and racism – well I’m sure Indians tend to be a little noisy and a little more social than their European counterparts that doesn’t mean you get a F-16 escort and put a bunch of people into a GBay styled detention center.

    BTW welcome to Mumbai Mets

  2. Deep Thought (unregistered) on September 6th, 2006 @ 2:22 pm

    Thanks Akshay! I’m actually thrilled to be writing for Mumbai Mets.

    The funny thing is had those passengers and staff members been right about the detained men, we all would have called them heroes for their alertness. Think about that.

  3. Dadoji (unregistered) on September 8th, 2006 @ 3:45 pm

    Let’s be very clear about what happened.

    NW wasn’t wrong but the Dutch Govt. was indeed wrong in not allowing consular access to those men and arresting them without evidence. This was exactly what MEA protested against and the Dutch apologised for.

  4. Deep Thought (unregistered) on September 8th, 2006 @ 4:10 pm

    Good point, dadoji. Let’s also be clear about the fact that in most developed countries, one can be arrested for suspicion of misconduct – whether that suspicion was based on objective or subjective observations is anyone’s guess.

  5. Dadoji (unregistered) on September 22nd, 2006 @ 10:53 am

    I thought suspicion could lead to detention but arrest required evidence. Except, maybe, in US now with the new laws.

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