Robert Johnson writes:
Re. “It’s time to think seriously about Islamic profiling”(11 August, item 6). Peter Faris says that “Part of the price Muslims will have to pay is profiling.” In March this year I went to Immigration to enquire as to why, on the two occasions when my wife has flown in to/out of Australia unaccompanied, she has been taken to one side for questioning. When the Immigration officer finally agreed to enter her name and date of birth into the computer, she read whatever appeared on the screen and turned to me and said “explain to your wife that Australia has security measures in place which put her in a special category”. When I explained that my wife is an Indian Hindu, the reply was “it’s not my job to either explain or defend Government policy”. I suspect that profiling is already in place, and that it’s not confined to Muslims (as a religious group, as Peter Faris explains – perhaps the distinctions between Muslims and Hindus is too difficult for Immigration officers, not that I’m seeking to excuse the practice for anyone). My wife’s first such experience was very intimidating, as she was quickly ushered into a windowless room by two male officers and the door locked. She was in the process of boarding a UN flight out of Darwin.
Perry Gretton writes: Peter Faris’s article ranks as the most disturbing piece I’ve seen in Crikey in all the years I’ve been a subscriber. Religion, he says, should be included on ID cards. Disregarding the fact that ID cards provide no defence against terrorism, having to publicly declare your religion (and I’m charitably assuming this would apply to everybody, not just Muslims as Faris implies) smacks of Nazi Germany and its “profiling” of Jews. What next? Political affiliations? Serial numbers on our feet? Underpinning the article is the belief that being a Muslim predisposes one to terrorism. Whenever I read anything like this, I substitute “Muslim” with “Christian” to see if the argument stands up. This doesn’t. Would it have made a difference if all Catholics in Northern Ireland had been issued with ID cards showing their religion just because a tiny fraction might be terrorists? I think not. So why should Muslims, many of whom are no more devout or extreme than their Christian counterparts, be considered as potential suicide bombers?
Russell Dovey writes: Peter Faris, I thought Queen’s Counsel were supposed to be intelligent. Your solution to this is Islamic profiling. And how will we know people are Islamic? Because it says so on their passport. Oh, very clever. Not only have you helpfully narrowed the search to 1 billion potential plane travellers, you’ve also provided a foolproof “religion detector” – a voluntary category on one’s passport! This could never be avoided by terrorists! Why, a customs officer would take one look at a naughty Muslim who tried to slip in as, just for an example, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Zoroastrian (to say nothing of atheists) and sound the alarm! Maybe every passenger could fill out a religious quiz? Or perhaps there’s a magic Muslim gene that can be identified by magic fairy sensors built into metal detectors? Or maybe, just maybe, we could give up on the misguided idea that because the most prominent terrorists have been Muslim, that we can use this to identify terrorists?
Michael Hughes writes: Peter Faris’ views on Islamic profiling are interesting. I wonder if he can expand on how someone proves their faith or how a terrorist not willing to call attention to themself by listing themselves as say a Jewish person or Coptic Christian? Letter from a Rabbi? Parchment Priest? One’s religion is one’s own business. Sticking it on an ID Card is a gross violation of that privacy. And with the bulk of the world’s Muslims being synonymous with brown skin and dark hair, Faris is skirting dangerously close to the racist tag with his suggestion, irrespective of his “religion not race” claims.
Stephen Luntz writes: I realise that the danger of terrorism forces us to suggest some wacky ideas in the quest to come up with a few that will actually work, but surely Peter Faris is taking this a little far with his suggestion that religion be printed on ID cards. Any self-respecting proto-terrorist will surely be smart enough to get themseleves listed as something innocuous before they try blowing 400 people to bits. Indeed one of the suspects in Britain apparently only converted to Islam six months ago, so unless the cards were updated frequently he would probably still be listed under his previous affiliation. Presumably Faris’s suggestion is to have police prowl the mosques and have anyone who doesn’t have “Muslim” written on their card removed forthwith, but I think there might be a few holes in that plan too. However, the thing I am most keen to hear from Faris is what he suggests Airport security should do with the 70,000 Australians who in 2001 listed themselves on the census as “Jedi”. Take away their lightsabres perhaps?
Lorna Jarrett writes: Peter Faris’ piece was the first genuinely offensive article I’ve read in Crikey. Of course he’s a racist: if he’s prepared to spout such bigotry and hatred in public he should own up to the fact. Yes, Islam is technically a religion, not a race, but when he talks about Moslems, the image in his mind is identical to that in the minds of most Australians – “middle Eastern appearance”. Is he really so naive as to think that harassing and targeting Moslems will keep this country safe? I lived in London during the terrorist bombing campaigns of the 1990s. Terrorists are white and Christian, as far as I’m concerned. Why should the Moslem community have to “pay the price” when Christians and Westerners have such a bloody history of terrorism? I could say a lot more, but I have better things to do with my time.
Andrew Lewis writes: For someone who would seem to have claims to intelligence, perhaps in abundance, Peter Faris can write the silliest things. Friday’s pearler that “We know with absolute certainty that terrorists will come from the Muslim community” is his given reason for having an adequate identity card system, which includes information about a person’s religion. It hasn’t occurred to our learned QC that perhaps someone who was intending to be a suicide bomber might have the courage to lie about their religion on a form applying for the said identity card. So apparently our greatest safeguard, an identification card, will protect us by relying on people considering mass murder to not cross that terrifying moral precipice of lying on a government form. Let’s not discuss the fact that our apparently brilliant new tamper-proof biometric passport system can apparently be got around by a person with the requisite skills and a few hundred dollars in software purchases (story this week in SMH), or the seemingly endless capacity of organised crime to create fraudulent cards of any type. I am hoping that the reason for not introducing cards and Islamic profiling is less to do with political correctness and more to do with the fact that it is a silly idea, but with this government I’m not getting my hopes up.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
John Smith writes: I never thought Crikey would stoop to publish the kind of tripe that Peter Faris QC has been putting out on his blog for ages. I cannot see how Muslim profiling would make any difference in stopping terrorist attacks. How on earth would an ID card with “Islam” written on it do anything to prevent terrorism? Why don’t you go further than that Peter? Why don’t we just lock up every Muslim in the country? You could be sure then that no Muslim would launch a terrorist attack in Australia. Come on Crikey, don’t allow reactions to events like these make the situation even more frightening than it already is.
Brad Ruting writes: Peter Faris’ arguments for stating one’s religion on identity cards was so flawed I couldn’t quite be sure whether he was being satirical or serious. He claims that “we know with absolute certainty that terrorists will come from the Muslim community.” Really? What about IRA terrorists? Or ETA? Although I suppose they’re really militant activists, not terrorists, because they’re nice white sorts from Christian religious backgrounds, aren’t they? Indeed, even if every terrorist was Muslim, there is still the fact that not every ‘person of Middle Eastern appearance’ necessarily subscribes to the Islamic religion. Why would potential terrorists divulge their religion (if any) to authorities to print on their ID card when this would bring them unwanted attention? As the recent arrests in Britain go to show, preventing terrorism involves a lot more than ID cards and security checks. Restricting knives on planes didn’t stop potentially dangerous liquids being taken aboard before yesterday, did it? There is a need for intelligence services that are, er, intelligent, as well as efforts to assuage the public. Religions on ID cards will only alienate people because of their race or religious beliefs, and serve little practical purpose. For a QC, Mr. Faris really should have thought a bit more deeply about his proposal.
Ebony Bennett writes: I won’t call Peter Faris QC a racist, but I will call him an idiot. The only suggestion for identifying terrorists that is MORE simplistic than his idea for “Religion: Muslim” ID cards , would be to run a national ad campaign asking terrorists to wear “I am an Islamic terrorist” tee-shirts.
Melissa Lee writes: Peter Faris’ piece regarding Islamic profiling is utterly ridiculous. Firstly, a terrorist could be anyone with an axe to grind against the current status quo who is prepared to use indiscriminate violence to make their point – it just so happens that since September 11 and the London bombings, Islamic extremists have been the most visible terrorist threat. It doesn’t preclude the threat of public violence from any other fringe group of any religion, race or political persuasion. Secondly, an identity card system which requires that religion be stated does not represent a reliable method of identifying possible terror suspects. If seventeen-year-old children are successfully able to forge Australian drivers’ licences in order to get into bars and nightclubs, as is common practice all over the country, then I suspect that heavily financed terrorist groups will be able to forge the appropriate identity card. In fact, as religion is technically a personal belief system which varies according to each individual rather than a static and provable method of categorising people (such as gender, which can’t easily be altered), all a person would have to do is lie about the religion stated on their identity cards. All Faris’ suggestion does is offer an easy method of persecuting those who are honest about their religion, while allowing the authorities to turn their blinkers on to “safe” categories of people. Such a system sets itself up for failure.
Nathan Vincent writes: I believe that on top of the identification card, all Australian Muslims should be made to wear distinctively coloured arm bands so that non-Muslim Australians can easily identify who they are, and treat them accordingly. However, there is a danger that some of these crafty Islamic types might wise up and take their arm bands off, and then we’d be back to the old ways of identifying terrorists by the way they dress, their beards etc… In the old days they might have used tattoos to get around this problem—which would work fine, in all fairness—but technology has progressed, so I propose embedding RFID chips into Muslims. That way we’ll make Australia safer for everyone. Think of the
benefits: shopping centres can be alerted whenever a Muslim walks in, airports can be put on high alert if there is a Muslim waiting to board a plane etc… Anyway, I wholeheartedly with agree with Mr. Faris in that the way forward for this country is to treat Muslims like the second-class citizens they are. Lord knows they deserve it.
Ashley Midalia writes: Peter Faris is going to cop a barrage of criticism, I suspect. Most of it justified. After all, we could always just skip the intermediate step of identity cards stating one’s religion and go straight to the mandatory wearing of yellow stars and green crescent moons. His silly knee-jerk solutions aside, however, Peter does make one undeniable point: the threat of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism comes, by definition, from within the Muslim community. It is for this reason that it is up to Muslim leaders to stop crying “discrimination” every time attention is focused on the Muslim community and instead loudly and unequivocally condemn those within their ranks who threaten the broader society in which they live. Moreover, such statements must not be mealy-mouthed half-condemnations that are quickly followed by a “but”, as they have tended to be. It is also fair to expect Muslims to actively (and genuinely) identify and deal with the bad eggs – or else accept they are providing extremists with the cover that is the cause of suspicion falling on their community as a whole.