Should We Religiously Profile?

Months ago, a concerned American at a school in Texas spotted a 14-year-old Muslim boy toting around a contraption that looked very much like a bomb. That Texan called the police, who came and detained the boy; after learning that the boy’s device was actually a disassembled clock, they released him.

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Weeks ago, a concerned American in San Bernardino spotted a “half-dozen Middle Eastern men” in the area of an apartment housing Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. He didn’t know what they were doing there, but they seemed suspicious. He didn’t call the cops.

In San Bernardino, of course, that political correctness ended in the death of 14 Americans and the wounding of 21 more. In Texas, that failure to bow to political correctness ended in the attorney general of the United States vowing to track down and investigate the local police department.

Welcome to politically correct America, where you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

Political correctness costs lives. It doesn’t merely require us to abide by the strictures of an arbitrary linguistic code. It isn’t just an irritation. It means that we’re all supposed to frontally lobotomize ourselves to basic realities. We’re supposed to pretend that there’s nothing more suspicious about a half-dozen Middle Eastern males coming and going at odd hours from an apartment with a small child than there would be if a half-dozen white males did the same thing. We’re supposed to cave to the fantasy that a religious Muslim reaching out to terrorists over the internet poses no more threat than a Christian visiting a pro-life website. We’re supposed to blind ourselves in order to avoid the obvious.

That costs lives.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we ought to discriminate against individual Muslims, of course. But it does mean that law enforcement ought to look at indicators of possible terrorist connections, and that one preliminary indicator is religious practice of Islam. That indicator isn’t sufficient to determine connection to terrorism — far from it. No single indicator generally is. But behavioral profiling involves investigating a variety of factors. As Daniel Wagner, CEO of Risk Solutions, writes about Israel’s profiling techniques, “Departing passengers [at Ben Gurion Airport] are questioned by highly trained security agents before they reach the check-in counter. These interviews could last as little as one minute or as long as an hour, based on such factors as age, race, religion and destination.”

Ignoring any of these factors represents incompetence.

But the president wants to use the force of law to enshrine incompetence. He suggests that to assess risk differently based on religious observance is somehow a violation of basic American principles, rather than a time-tested technique of all human relations. We obviously must remain on guard for baseless bias and persecution without evidence. But we can’t ignore the realities of risk assessment in the name of cultural sensitivity, either.

That’s how we end up with the utter stupidity of an MSNBC host suggesting that media stop showing pictures of the San Bernardino female shooter so as not to link her hijab-clad visage with Islam. That’s how we end up with Obama suggesting that our own Islamophobia causes terrorism, rather than radical Islam. Most importantly, that’s how we end up with more dead Americans.

Ben Shapiro, 31, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, a radio host on KTTH 770 Seattle and KRLA 870 Los Angeles, editor-in-chief of, and senior editor-at-large of Breitbart News. He is The New York Times best-selling author of “Bullies.” He lives with his wife and daughter in Los Angeles.

Also see,

President Obama’s Imaginary World

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