Siding with Muslim group against travel policies 

Have I somehow been teleported into some kind of Bizarroworld alternate universe? Do I find myself agreeing with the Council on American-Islamic Relations?

Well, almost, but not quite.

CAIR is not my favorite group. I’ve written about them in the past, and few of the things I said were kind. I was especially unkind when I wrote about CAIR’s reaction to one particular season of the television show “24.”

If you recall, the folks at CAIR objected to the storyline that had an American Muslim family as part of a sleeper cell of terrorists. The organization’s spokespeople claimed that unfairly stereotyped and stigmatized all American Muslims.

I wrote that if I were a honcho at the Fox network, which airs “24,” I’d have invited CAIR representatives into my office. I’d have explained to them that in prior seasons of “24,” all manner, make, ethnicity and religion of people had been depicted as terrorists. I’d have thrown in the fact that in a subsequent storyline that same season, some loyal American Muslims fight against terrorists right alongside “24” hero Jack Bauer.

Then I’d have thrown the CAIR delegation the hell out of my office. But hey, that’s just me.

CAIR’s latest gripe concerns the new guidelines the Transportation Security Administration adopted in the wake of terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up an America-bound airliner with a bomb planted in his underwear.

Because of the actions of the man some have dubbed “Drawers of Doom,” the TSA has ordered airlines to give full-body pat-downs to any U.S.-bound traveler coming from 13 countries that have large or overwhelmingly Muslim populations, and one that has virtually none at all. Nigeria, Abdulmutallab’s native country, is on the list, as are Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan.

CAIR representatives issued a statement quite unlike their near-apoplectic response to “24.” According to news sources, a CAIR spokesman had this reaction:

“Under these new guidelines, almost every American Muslim who travels to see family or friends or goes on pilgrimage to Mecca will be automatically singled out for special security checks. That’s profiling.”

It is, but that’s not why I’m somewhat in agreement with CAIR. The spokesman who made the statement is named Nihad Ahwad, and he seems to have some misunderstandings about this country.

First, traveling here is a privilege, not a right. Second, the rights of American citizens end at the border, and the same goes for foreigners.

Yes, it’s true, as I learned in a story about an American woman who underwent the full-body cavity search (for drugs) when she returned from Jamaica. Your constitutional rights don’t apply when you’re leaving, entering or about to enter the United States.

No, I have a problem with the TSA guidelines for other reasons. Look at some of the countries on the list. Aren’t Pakistan and Saudi Arabia supposed to be countries friendly to the United States? Didn’t we invade Iraq to make it a country safe from harboring terrorists (among other reasons)?

And I happen to look like a Sudanese Arab, according to some people who fought for the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. In 1996, I and another reporter slipped into Sudan to report and write about the slave trade there. We stayed in a southern Sudanese village called Nyamlel, which was under SPLA control.

One day, I spoke to the province administrator, who also was in the SPLA, and he looked me square in the eye and said:

“You know, we should send you into the north posing as an Arab. With that beard, you’d look like a fundamentalist.”

He and the other SPLA guys looked at me in all seriousness while I waited for the punch line to what I thought was a very bad joke. It eventually came; the lot of them burst out into riotous laughter.

“I hope you guys have taken note that the black American isn’t laughing,” I said to myself.

It’s true: Black Americans look like Sudanese Arabs. Put baggy pants hanging down over the butt on one of the younger ones — along with a gold chain — and he’d blend right in down in the ’hood. For all I know, some terrorist group has recruited some young, male “Sudanese Arabs” to do precisely that.

CAIR folks are right: It’s better to profile behavior, not entire countries.

Examiner columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to Sudan.

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Gregory Kane

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Examiner columnist Gregory Kane is an award-winning journalist who lives in Baltimore.

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