car bombs, muslims, and other would-be terrorists


Just a week after an innocent Pakistani-born US citizen, Syed Fahad Hashmi, plead guilty to one count of material support to terrorists--in order that he avoid spending 70 years in jail--another Pakistani-born US citizen tried to blow up an SUV in Times Square. He ran away from the car shedding his shirt, before being apprehended on a flight bound for Dubai.

The media, intellectuals, and pundits alike have seized upon it as justification for a policy of heightened scrutiny of all Pakistani-born naturalized citizens. The thinking is that all Pakistanis are somehow potentially tied to Al Qaeda by virtue of descent.

Each and every time incidents like this are used to systematize new policies, nobody calls them what they are: racist, ethnocentrist and unjust. To do so, is to be labeled a traitor and un-American. By virtue of Syed Hashmi's race, nationality, and plea--coerced under what constitutes torture for three years--he is guilty by association.

This is not unlike how the Nigerian would-be bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, unwittingly placed all Nigerians on the Homeland Security watch list. (FYI, ABC News has video of a young Farouk blasting guns in Yemen.)

Back in January, as I passed through customs at JFK returning from holidays in Akwa Ibom, the customs officer openly asked his partner what was to be done with women coming from Nigeria. I waited nervously while they debated my case, turning my passport this way and that as they scrutinized the watermarks. All the while, I prayed they wouldn't open my luggage and discover the undeclared egusi and atama inside.

Finally, they let me go with a cursory glance, waving me through the sliding doors into the hustle and bustle of NYC. Thankfully, despite my ethnicity and brown skin, I do not look like a terrorist.

But this eyeball test is exactly what federal and state government officials are after. Take, for instance, recently passed legislation in Arizona that makes failure to carry immigration documents a crime. Residents are subject to being stopped by the police, held, and deported simply for "looking like" an undocumented immigrant.

Again, when people say the U.S. is a free country, I shake my head. We are living in a proto-fascist era. We're all guilty by virtue of race, religion, and nationality until proven innocent. And most brown people can't really afford adequate legal help if something goes wrong. If you happen to be rich, white and male (notwithstanding the standpoint of one of my readers), you can steal upwards of $50 billion and still enjoy your basic freedoms.

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