I have repeatedly argued that, however distasteful, there must be special scrutiny of Muslims in the West for security purposes. Here's how I put it two days ago: "Because the identity of the next homicidal jihadi cannot be anticipated, Muslims generally need to come under heightened observation. I regret writing this as much as you dislike reading it, but it needs to be said and operated upon."
With this in mind, I was encouraged in December 2004 by the results of a Cornell University opinion survey that found 44 percent of Americans endorsing special attention toward Muslims living in America, either by registering their whereabouts, profiling them, monitoring their mosques, or infiltrating their organizations.
Today, poll results released by Gallup confirm this, indicating that 41 percent of Americans agree with the proposition "Requiring Muslims, including those who are U.S. citizens, to undergo special, more intensive security checks before boarding airplanes in the U.S."
But I was taken aback by another statistic: 39 percent of Americans in agreement with "Requiring Muslims, including those who are U.S. citizens, to carry a special ID." That's going too far. It's illegal, immoral, impractical, and inefficient. To start with, how does a secular state treat religious conversion as a legal step, who defines who's a Muslim (e.g. Nation of Islam or Ahmadis), and what utility would a new bureaucracy serve?
On the other hand, I have been calling for five years for the exclusion and expulsion of Islamists; failing that, I want them closely monitored, for example, by having them electronically tagged, their speech recorded, their actions videoed, their mail and electronic communications monitored. For more, see my analysis that appeared three days after 9/11 at "Protecting Muslims while Rooting out Islamists" and then expanded at "Fighting Militant Islam, Without Bias."
Earlier yet, I addressed this topic (with co-author Khalid Durán) at some length in a 1993 study for the U.S. Institute of Peace, "Muslims in the West: Can Conflict Be Averted?":
The Western public and its media must not lump Islamists and moderate Muslims together. In particular, they need to understand that Islamists constitute a minority of the Muslim populations in their midst. … To penalize all Muslims for the antics of a few extremists is deeply unfair. Indeed, this is a form of double jeopardy, whereby the moderates suffer from the outside world which sees them as extremists and the fundamentalists who see them as sell-outs.
(August 10, 2006)
Aug. 29, 2006 update: If the above two polls found roughly the same 2/5s of the U.S. population wanting enhanced security measures vis-à-vis Muslims, two polls, one American and one British, find 3/5 of the population specifically calling for counterterrorism efforts to focus on Muslims.
- In a YouGov poll for the Daily Telegraph, 1,757 adults across Great Britain were asked online between Aug 22 and 24, "Should the security services now focus their intelligence-gathering and terrorism-prevention efforts on Muslims?" To this, 65 percent said yes, 23 percent said no. (The figures after 7.7 were 60 and 30 percent.)
- In a Quinnipiac University national poll, 1,080 registered voters across the country were asked, "In order to prevent terrorism at places like airports and subways, should authorities be able to single out people who look like they might be of Middle Eastern origin to search or question?" Overall, 60 percent answered in the affirmative, 37 in the negative. A breakdown of the statistics found, predictably, Republicans saying yes much more than Democrats (73 percent to 50 percent) and men more so than women (68 percent to 52 percent). More surprising, to me anyway, is the steady lowering of approval down the age scale, from 72 percent (65 years older) to 48 percent (18 to 34 years).
Comment: Much evidence, including these several polls, suggests that Westerners increasingly agree that security has to focus more tightly on the pool of potential violent jihads, without their being at all sure how to effect this. That's were politicians, journalists, and academics are generally falling down on the job, and not providing carefully thought through mechanisms.