Rep. Darrell Issa, an influential House committee chairman whose family has Arab roots, said the idea advanced by some GOP presidential candidates of profiling Muslims to combat terrorism is “pretty far-fetched.”
The California Republican, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, compared ethnic profiling of Muslims to the phenomenon called “driving while black” where African Americans are pulled over by police with unusual frequency when they drive in white neighborhoods. "That is just wrong," he said. Representative Issa spoke Friday at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters.
The prominent Republican, whose paternal grandfather was born in Lebanon, was asked about comments made at the Nov. 22 GOP presidential debate on national security. At the event, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum told moderator Wolf Blitzer of CNN that he favored profiling and that “obviously, Muslims would be” targets.
Herman Cain said at the debate he favored something called “targeted identification” although he said giving Muslim Americans a more intensive pat down at airports was “oversimplifying it.” Cain added, “Let’s ask the professionals to give us an approach of how we can increase the identification of people that might be a danger.”
Issa admitted his response to the issue “perhaps is tainted a little bit” by the fact he was denied boarding on an Air France Flight right after 9-11. Ironically, he was traveling to Saudi Arabia with a Jewish congressman, Robert Wexler, to talk about how unified Americans were in confronting terrorists in Afghanistan. The next day, Issa caught a flight on British Airways.
“I want law enforcement to be sensible in targeting high risk,” Issa said. “But high risk cannot be based on the color of your skin or a perception that can’t be backed up with some sensible facts. That is true on the street when simply driving while black.”
He added, “Assuming that you can pick out a Muslim is pretty farfetched and more importantly if that is all you are concentrating on then the really big crimes will be done by blond, blue eyed women from Belgium who convert and you will never see it coming.”
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