Saturday, December 18, 2004

Fear and loathing live on

A full 27 percent of Americans scare the hell out of me. That's the percentage of respondents in a recent Cornell University poll who said all Muslims should be required to register where they live with the federal government. Forty-four percent of respondents agreed that Muslims' civil liberties should be restricted in some way. That's right: These people think all Muslims, including millions of innocent, hard-working Americans, should be subject to constant government monitoring or be treated like second-
class citizens just because of their religious beliefs or skin color.

Not surprisingly, people who watch lots of sensationalistic television news were more likely than others to be petrified by fear of imminent terrorist attacks and to believe that police should lock up all of the dark-skinned people. Republicans and "highly religious" people were also more likely to call for limiting Muslims' liberties than Democrats and "less religious" people were.

Does anyone even pay attention to history anymore?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The survey showed that 27 percent of respondents supported requiring all Muslim- Americans to register where they lived with the federal government."

Shouldn't everyone be required to register where they live to the federal government? Don't we already do that anyway? I mean, we put our address on our driver's license, tax forms, census forms and more, so what's the big stink over?

If you're an Arab-American (in this case, a person of Arab descent born in America), you should get the same rights as everyone else. But if you're of Arab descent (or any other foreign descent) and are here on a visa, then yes, maybe you should be monitored a litttle bit. Anyone here on a visa should. That means you're here temporarily and don't claim to belong to our country (nor do you belong). Why should you get every right that I'm entitled to if you're not American?

Also, there are many foreigners who come here on a visa and "disappear" and not return to their country when the visa expires. Shouldn't that worry us?

But no matter what you look like or from what group you descended from, if you're a full-American, you shouldn't be watched by the government or profiled unfairly. That wouldn't be American, and if you are one, then we shouldn't do that to you.

I'm not just for racial profiling - I'm for profiling altogether. You look at peoples' age, sex, race, religion, organization membership, employment, etc., then determine whether or not they pose a threat. We don't need to pull the 80-year-old WWII veteran out of the line at the airport...we need to pull out the 18-year-old Muslim who has ties to a suspected terrorist group. But along these lines, we can't be monitoring those who throw up only "yellow flags" - we have to identify the "red flags," those who are highly likely to be connected to terror, and watch them and act if necessary.

In conclusion, your 27 percent isn't that bad. It's the 44 percent who want some restrictions on Muslim-Americans who are bad, because ultimately some of those Muslims ar going to be full-blooded Americans. The 22 percent who want profiling are OK, because profiling works when the tactic isn't abused. But the 29 percent who want undercover agents in Muslim groups is pretty bad, because who knows which groups they'll infiltrate next.


1:41 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

Your argument is internally inconsistent. You say you disagree with the 44 percent of respondents who support some kind of restrictions on Muslim Americans, but the 27 percent who support requiring all Muslim Americans to register where they live is OK. That makes no sense, since the 27 percent is included within the 44 percent with whom you disagree. You can't have it both ways.

Yes, American citizens who pay taxes, have a driver's license, register for Selective Service, etc., must let the government know where they live. That applies to all citizens regardless of race or religion. My understanding of the survey, however, is that 27 percent of respondents supported the establishment of a separate database with the addresses of all Muslim/Arab citizens for no other reason except that they are Muslim or Arab-American. Citizens, mind you, not just people here on visas. I can't support a policy that would treat citizens that way.

You're right that we need to identify the "red flags" and focus on them in fighting terrorism. But a blanket policy discriminating against American citizens just because they worship Allah or have Middle Eastern ancestors isn't the way to do that. Good intelligence work is.

7:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The survey showed that 27 percent of respondents supported requiring all Muslim- Americans to register where they lived with the federal government."

I'm requoting this same graf again because it makes no mention of a national database. It just says "register where they lived with the federal government."

Maybe the registry is implied by the survey by the way the questions are aligned, or maybe the actual question mentioned it that way, but I can't assume that they're asking if people want to create a registy solely for Muslims.

I didn't see the survey, and I'm not seeing the opinions of the surveys firsthand; I'm reading an interpretation by the reporter of the interpretation/results of the researcher(s).


"That makes no sense, since the 27 percent is included within the 44 percent with whom you disagree. You can't have it both ways."

The 27 percent isn't necessarily included with the 44 percent. And my opinion is somewhat of an example of that. I'm interpreting the "registry" as something all Americans have to submit to and something that isn't a violation of civil liberties. So I wouldn't be in the 44 percent that says Muslim's civil liberties should be restricted.

I'd have to see the survey to see if those questions were tied together. And I would have to see analyzed results to indeed see if the 27 percent are in the same group as the 44 percent.

Survey stories are bad, because reporters tend to tie numbers together that cannot always be tied together. And sometimes the readers try to tie those unrelated numbers together.

Besides, do you think surveys actually take the pulse of the entire country, even when they have low "margins of error," or do they just measure the opinions of those surveyed? I go with the latter.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

Here's a link to a PDF version of the Cornell University researcher's report on the survey:

The statement that "[a]ll Muslim Americans should be required to register their whereabouts with the federal government" is included among the possible restrictions on Muslim Americans' civil liberties recognized by the survey. In other words, the 27 percent is included within the 44 percent. Based on news stories and the researcher's report, I don't see how that question can be interpreted in any way other than whether the respondents supported creating a database of Muslim citizens' addresses based solely on the fact that they're Muslims.

If you have any further questions about what the question meant or how it was phrased, you can contact the professor in charge of the survey and ask him for some clarification. His contact info is at the bottom of the PDF. If he says my interpretation of the survey is incorrect, I'll be glad to set the record straight.

As the old saying goes, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. You're free to disregard survey results at will, but I believe polls and surveys can be fairly accurate and representative if conducted scientifically. Whether this one falls in that category, of course, is a question for someone with a much better mathematical mind than mine.

12:06 AM  

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