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A smoking incident on a United Airlines flight to Denver this past week briefly triggered fears that a terrorist might be on board. The false alarm put the spotlight yet again on air travel security ... and the debate over the practice of profiling.
The attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the "Underwear Bomber," to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 to Detroit would have been preposterous, if he hadn't come so close to killing himself and nearly three hundred other people on Christmas Day.
"There was a loud 'pop,' and a bit of smoke and some flames," recalled one passenger.
Nihad Awad, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, thought, Not again ... and knew what was coming.
"That's exactly what I said - 'There you go again, oh God help us, I hope it was not a Muslim,'" said Awad.
But the 23-year-old Nigerian who got through security and onto Flight 253 was indeed a Muslim, trained by al Qaeda in Yemen.
Immediately, pundits and politicians started saying what a lot of Americans might have been thinking:
"I know it's not politically correct to say, I believe in racial and ethnic profiling," said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.
"First of all, it is un-American," asked Awad. "Second, have we learned any lesson from targeting minorities in America? Targeting people because of who they are is wrong, counterproductive. And we look always back in shame on our history." (More)