Jim Zogby and George Salem
Posted by Jim Zogby and George Salem on June 01, 2011 in News Clips
On May 25, Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, appeared on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal." Citing a personal experience at a Transportation Security Administration airport screening checkpoint, Broun said he couldn't understand why a "guy in Arabian dress" was not patted down during a security screening, while "a grandma" and "a little kid" were patted down.
Broun's comments come despite his attendance at a 2010 hearing, convened by then-House Homeland Security Committee Chairwoman Jane Harman, D-Calif., where former FBI agent Michael German testified that profiling is "counterproductive." German identified several security inadequacies actually caused by racial profiling, and other members of the panel cited policy flaws and mistakes that have failed to prevent attempted and actual terrorist attacks.
Rep. Broun has been quoted repeatedly insisting that the TSA is more concerned with political correctness than with catching those who would harm American citizens. The TSA needs to "focus upon those individuals, not on the general public," Broun stated in the May 25 interview, adding, "Unfortunately, I think the Department of Homeland Security has focused more on the general public and has been afraid of political correctness."
The congressman's comments are more than troublesome. They have potentially dire implications for both the Arab-American community and for U.S. national security. His conflation of Arabs and Muslims belies a cultural illiteracy, and his implication that the terrorists can be identified by their clothing is absurd and inflammatory.
Given his attendance at hearings where the inadequacies of profiling were stated plainly, we must conclude Broun is not misinformed, but rather that he chooses to insist on failed, ineffectual programs and policies for some ulterior motive - be it bigotry, pandering or both.
There are more than 3 million Americans of Arab ancestry living in the United States, including approximately 1,000 in Broun's congressional district. Broun's comments have been extremely disrespectful to his constituents and our community of teachers, soldiers, police officers, victims of 9/11 and elected officials such as him. We believe the Arab American community is owed an apology, and we've extended a personal invitation for Broun to visit the Arab American Institute and learn more about us. We hope he accepts the invitation.