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Readers sound off on racial-ethnic profiling

Photo by Jeffrey Beall/Flickr (Creative COmmons)

A post from Friday that featured five American Muslims discussing racial-ethnic profiling in light of the New York Police Department's Muslim profiling case, a report on FBI profiling and other recent news drew a long string of comments over the weekend, and the discussion among readers continues on the site.

The reactions have been surprisingly civil, considering. Some readers believe that law enforcement officials are within their rights to target specific ethnic communities for surveillance, while others hold firm that this kind of law enforcement action is an infringement on the civil rights of law-abiding Americans. Here's a taste of the discussion that's been taking place:

The first comment this weekend came from Jason Van Bemmel, who wrote:

How do we expect anti-terror law enforcement to protect us from future terrorist attacks if they do not monitor communities most likely to have terrorists in them?  The terrorists who have attacked us and who have plotted to attack us are Muslims.  That doesn't mean that all Muslims are terrorists or even that most Muslims harbor or sympathize with terrorists.  However, if you're looking for Islamic terrorists, the place to watch is Islamic communities.  That's really just common sense and good police strategy.  We cannot realistically expect them to do otherwise.

The comment was rebuked by several readers, including Larry Woller, who replied:
Threats to my ability of pursuing life, liberty and freedom does not come from terrorists threats or Muslims but from within..only when law enforcement practices the same vigorous monitoring of all aspects of American society that they do Muslims and others will I concede they are not racial profiling..

Sulayman also replied:
That doesn't mean the police can treat the entire community of millions of Muslim-Americans as suspects. When the JDL was terrorizing people, they didn't start bugging mosques and compiling lists of all Jewish-owned businesses like the NYPD is doing today against Muslims.

Come on, that just goes against state and federal law. Police can't target someone solely because they're Muslim, courts have determined that it goes against the First Amendment.

Another reader has pointed out parallels between what Muslims in the U.S. are experiencing today and what Japanese Americans experienced in the era of internment camps during World War II. And reader Liam Foote brought up post-September 2001 hate crimes against people perceived to be Muslim, which the interviews in the post didn't get into:
The story doesn't mention other victims such as Sikh merchant Balbir Singh Sodhi, shot and killed by wingnut Frank Roque simply because he wore a turban and beard.

What are your thoughts on racial-ethnic profiling? Join the discussion here.