The Fog of Prejudice

President Bush has made it clear that the antiterrorist campaign is not directed at Muslims or Arabs. Indeed, cooperation with those communities will be crucial.

But some misguided Americans already are expressing prejudice, even violence, against Muslims or Arab-appearing individuals. Such acts or words of discrimination are made worse when they come from airline employees, police, or FBI agents.

Suspicion against those who share, on the surface, the cultural or religious background of the terrorists is understandable, but not excusable. That's human nature. But it's a part of human nature that must be firmly subordinated to reason and the principles of fairness and liberty.

To force Arab passengers from planes because other passengers, or even pilots, won't fly with them is a plunge into darkness. Someone needs to shine the light of reason on such situations. Praise goes to airlines, such as Delta, that have reaffirmed policies of nondiscrimination.

To have FBI agents with no preparatory contact knocking on the doors of Arab or Muslim citizens with no clear ties to acts of crime is a sure way to instill fear right where cooperation is most needed. That approach, sadly, reportedly has been taken in some cities. Praise to the chief FBI agent in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area who made it his business to meet with the local Islamic community to discuss ways of working together.

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