A foiled bid by a Nigerian to blow up a U.S. airliner is reframing the delicate debate about racial profiling in the United States, where men from the Middle East have been foremost under the scanner.
U.S. government guidelines prohibit authorities from singling out people on the basis of race or ethnicity. But with airports struggling to scan snarling queues of passengers since the Christmas Day plot, many say it is naive to deny that security officers consider race as a factor.
Critics of racial profiling say that the case of 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian accused of trying to ignite explosives on a Northwest Airlines flight, showed the pitfalls of judging by appearance.
"Half of Nigeria isn't Muslim, so what do you do then? Do you ask if they're Muslim?" said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a pressure group.
"If you've got a Nigerian passport, do you say, 'If you're Christian, come on through; if you're Muslim, come with me?'" he said. (More)