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The Harassment of Passengers from 10 Muslim Nations - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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US authorities have taken backward steps in dealing with the problem of terrorism after eight years of various experiments that followed the 11 September attacks.

The US authorities have gone back to classifying passengers and countries in a futile hunting process. All this because of a single passenger who succeeded in reaching the US skies carrying a liquid bomb, but fortunately failed to ignite it, and now millions of people are being harassed because of a single terrorist!

In fact, the increase in measures is a reaction by US security organizations to accusations of failure in repelling the danger on that Christmas Day flight from Holland. These accusations have made the security authorities amplify their measures in order to avoid accusations of negligence. This is despite the fact that we know that not all the terrorist operations can be prevented whatever the development, accuracy, and strictness of the search might be. The fact that only one attempt has occurred in seven years is proof of the success and not the failure in combating terrorism.

I do not believe that it is impossible for one terrorist to sneak in the midst of millions of passengers carrying a liquid bomb, as Omar Abdulmutallab did. Whatever the precautions adopted by the security authorities at the airports, it will be possible for someone like Omar to infiltrate all these barriers and commit his crime if the scheming sides have the means, i.e. the explosives and the suicide bomber qualified to enter the country legally.

Tightening the restrictions on the citizens of the countries from which the terrorists originated from is completely meaningless. The terrorist boarded the plane from a Dutch airport, with a multiple-entry visa to the United States. He neither departed from an airport in Yemen, nor did he carry a forged passport. The fact that the terrorist is a Nigerian does not mean that the Al-Qaeda Organization is incapable of using nationalities that are less suspicious.

Today, when security authorities tighten the restrictions on the citizens of 10 Muslim nationalities, this leaves 40 other Muslim nationalities from which the terrorists could originate from. If the other 40 countries are to be included, Al-Qaeda will try to use a Chinese or a white German citizen to be one of its secret soldiers. Even if the airport inspectors were to harass all the nationalities of the world, and thoroughly searched the clothes of the passengers, there would be a possibility that the liquid explosives will be planted in the body of the terrorist and not in his clothes, and that would make it impossible when searched by hand.

What I mean is that the cat-and-mouse game cannot be resolved only by targeting millions of people and hunting them down in the hope of preventing one person in seven years from committing a crime, which probably will take place, according to the theory of probability. Destroying the Al-Qaeda ideology and Al-Qaeda itself are the most important solution.

It would be a better idea to spend the huge sums of money allocated to transforming airports into military fortresses, on fighting terrorist ideology and extremist ideologies in general.

In recent years, we have had an experiment that has succeeded to a reasonable extent, and that has changed the equation of the battle. This is when the Arabs and Muslims joined the fight against Al-Qaeda, and it became a battle for all and not just the United States and Europe. What many do not understand is that today most of the war waged against Al-Qaeda is carried out by Arabs and Muslims, and not by US or British citizens. You can see that in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, and Indonesia. This is the strategy that has placed the terrorists under siege, and not the restrictions at the airports or the harassment of Muslims.

There are hundreds of dangerous terrorist operations that have been thwarted before the terrorists boarded the airplanes, reached the train tunnels, or targeted senior leaders. These operations have been thwarted because of the continuous hunting down of the terrorist cells, and obtaining the information before the execution of the operations. For this reason the United States needs the support of the Arabs and Muslims in the war on terror more than it needs to harass them and to point the finger of accusation at them.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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