Don't like being treated like a terrorist? Don't look like one

By Alec Rooney

A recent incident on the UK’s Thomson Airways provides yet another example of blame-the-victimism: the state of mind in which the fallout from terrorist attacks is blamed on everyone but terrorists.

The UK’s MailOnline reported Wednesday on a well-off British-born Muslim (who works for his millionaire father) who was asked to get off a flight from Manchester, UK to North Africa “because of his faith and his beard”:

A Muslim man who was due to fly out on his honeymoon with his pregnant wife said he was taken off the plane and questioned over terrorism because of his faith and his beard.

Ahmed Ali

Ahmed Ali

Ahmed Ali was supposed to fly to Marrakesh, Morocco, from Manchester Airport, but was told by staff on the Thomson flight he had to disembark.

Mr Ali, 39, of Derby, said he was then taken away and questioned for several hours by Greater Manchester Police Officers.

He said it was the 20th time in two years he has been questioned when trying to board a plane, but the first time he was forced to get off.

Mr. Ali went on to post an indignant YouTube monologue in which he compared Prime Minister David Cameron to (you guessed it) Hitler, and said Cameron was “oppressing the Muslim people,” and earned himself some news coverage in which the police do indeed come out looking like the oppressors. He was with his wife! (Second wife, in fact.) They were going on their honeymoon! He has done charity work for poor people! Poor white people!

Never once did he blame radical Islamist terrorists, who have made the big, black beard into a danger signal.

His whine sounds familiar. It sounds like U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch scolding Americans for not trusting Muslims, a week after two radicalized Muslims killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif. It sounds like anyone who rails against profiling — the practice of singling out people who look like trouble, based on previous experience.

It does appear that Mr. Ali was profiled. He is a young, somber-faced, heavily bearded Middle-Eastern looking man with hair cropped almost prison-short. In fact, take a look at the first page of results when you do a Google image search of “terrorist mugshots.” He looks kind of like … a whole bunch of those guys.

But what is so terrible about profiling? It is a natural function of the healthy human brain. You profile the strange man sitting near where your children are playing in the park. You profile the large dog loping toward you from the other side of the street. You profile the large, yellow-and-black insect that just landed on your arm. If you are building a road through the forest and three of your workers are killed by a man-eating lion, you profile every subsequent lion you see — maybe even every light-brown animal.

Note the final paragraph of the article excerpt above: “He said it was the 20th time in two years he has been questioned when trying to board a plane.”

Twenty times! 

What’s amazing about that is not the persistent oppression, stupidity or racism of the police. What’s amazing is that Mr. Ali went through it all those times, and never decided to lose the (blank) beard for a year or two.

Finally, getting back to blame-the-victimism, Mr. Ali’s anger at David Cameron, the police and the airline — all of whom have very serious, specific duties relating to public safety —  is misplaced. Why be angry at people who are suspicious because you look like a Google search result for “Islamic radical terrorist”?

Why not be angry at the bearded man-eaters who strapped on bombs, loaded up guns and earned that suspicion in the first place?


Alec Rooney serves as communications director for the Christian Action Network. He is a longtime journalist, with experience as a writer and editor at five daily newspapers over 25 years. An award-winning print copy editor and copy desk chief, he also works as a freelance academic book editor. He is a 1986 graduate of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., and holds an M.A. in English from the University of Kentucky.


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