Tuesday, August 02, 2005

If Something Is Wrong, It Is Wrong

This post at Samizdata contained the following lines which I found somewhat worrying:

We noticed that there were two or three Asian men holding camcorders and filming stairwells, restaurants and the maps of the ferry. This may be innocent behaviour but we took photos of them. The photos have been passed on to the Kent constabulary. This could be something or nothing, but vigilance is the purview of the alert citizen, not a monopoly of our less than competent authorities.

What worried me was not the act of good citizenship - this is indeed responsible and correct behaviour, that should be encouraged. It was the fact that the race of the men concerned was considered something worthy of note. If behaviour is suspicious and worrying, it is suspicious and worrying regardless of who carries it out.

I asked whether the poster would have taken the same action had it been men of any other description doing precisely the same actions. The poster has not yet replied; however other commenters have basically said that he was right to single the men out for being Asian. When I pointed out that radical Islam was an ideology, not a racial stereotype, people responded by asking if I was aware of any caucasian radical Islamists.

Thankfully, I am not so well acquainted with those circles that I can answer those questions with any degree of certainty. What I do know is this, however - it is possible for caucasian men of whatever religious upbringing to convert to Islam. Whilst I may not have heard of a caucasian suicide bomber, there is still very much the possibility there may be one.

There are drug runners in San Diego who thrive by getting drugs across the US-Mexico border. How do you think they achieve this? Not by giving the drugs to those who fit the stereotype. No, they pad the walls of ambulances as they go with lights flashing across the border. They hide them in the boots of elderly drivers' cars. In short, they succeed in their drug running by hiring smugglers who do not fit the stereotypes.

That is certainly not beyond the wit of al-Qa'eda. We may be more suspicious of someone Asian than someone caucasian, that is true. But, in reality, that doesn't mean we are necessarily right - we are responding to a pre-prepared stereotype. If it is possible for suicide bombers to live perfectly normally within a community, then anyone among us could be a suicide bomber. It is an uncomfortable truth. Al-Qa'eda and all sorts of other nasty groups (eg the BNP) want us to fall into the trap of thinking anyone with coloured skin is our enemy, anyone with white skin is our friend. But if someone's behaviour is suspicious, it is suspicious because of the nature of the behaviour. Not because of someone's origin.