What do Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Dave Chappelle, Janet Jackson, and even Donald Trump’s BFF Mike Tyson all have in common? Under a President Trump, they would all be stripped of certain constitutional rights. And so would approximately 2 million other African Americans. Why? Because they are Muslims.
On Monday, Trump made it clear that we need to start profiling Muslims in America. As he told Fox News, “political correctness” is holding the police back because they are “afraid to do anything about it because they don’t want to be accused of profiling.” Trump added, “You know, in Israel they profile. They’ve done an unbelievable job, as good as you can do.”
Trump calling for profiling of Muslims shouldn’t come as a surprise. In January Trump first raised the issue, stating, “We really have to look at profiling. We have to look at it seriously.”
It appears Trump looked and decided he loves it. That means African Americans, who represent the biggest chunk of Muslim Americans, clocking in at one-third of the 5 million to 7 million Muslims in our country, will be subject to profiling under a President Trump. The timing of this announcement is a tad awkward given Trump’s planned Fox News Town Hall on Wednesday at a black church in Cleveland that will focus on “core issues and concerns surrounding African-Americans.” I don’t think supporting profiling millions of African Americans is going to play too well there.
Now Trump might try to backpedal, as he has done on so many issues this campaign, and tell us he only wants profiling of Muslims born in foreign countries. Here’s the problem with that approach: Omar Mateen, the Pulse nightclub shooter, was born in the United States. Same goes for African American Muslim Elton Simpson, one of the two people who attacked the Draw the Prophet Muhammad contest in Garland, Texas, in 2015.
Bottom line is that unless Trump caves into political correctness, he will have to stick to his call to profile every Muslim American. So what will life be like under a President Trump for African American Muslims? Will those currently serving in our military, like U.S. Air Force Col. Nashid Salahuddin and the thousands who are U.S. military veterans, have fewer rights? And what about the nearly 1,000 Muslim Americans now serving in the NYPD—will they be profiled by their fellow police officers? Or will they have to profile themselves?!
Who knows? But here’s one thing Trump doesn’t get. Being free from profiling—be it racial or otherwise—is not about “political correctness,” it’s about the rights each of us as Americans are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
And it’s especially alarming when a politician would even suggest profiling African Americans given the sinister history of how that has been used against the black community. Perhaps President Obama was correct a few days ago when he stated that Trump had “missed that whole civics lesson about...Jim Crow.”
Profiling—be it based on race, religion, or ethnicity—is patently wrong for various reasons. First, as Farhana Khera, the executive director of Muslim Advocates, explained, “Targeting a group of Americans based on religion is unconstitutional.”
Specifically it violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures. And it violates the Fourteenth Amendment, which promises all Americans “equal protection” under the law. A federal judge cited those very provisions of our Constitution in 2013 when ruling the NYPD’s stop and frisk program was unconstitutional, because it disproportionately affected blacks and Latinos. And in that case the judge only found that the NYPD practice resulted in a “policy of indirect racial profiling.” In Trump’s case it would be direct and unambiguous profiling.
And from a practical matter, profiling doesn’t work. We saw that when for six years the NYPD engaged in wholesale surveillance of Muslim Americans in New York City, spying on mosques, schools, restaurants, etc. Want to guess how many leads that turned up? Zero. Yep, zip, nada, as Assistant NYPD Chief Thomas Galati made crystal clear.
Indeed, profiling is counterproductive in the fight against radicalization. As numerous counterterrorism experts have told me on my SiriusXM show, the most effective way to counter radicalization is by building bridges—not walls—between law enforcement and the Muslim American community. That leads to a working partnership built on mutual respect, not a dysfunctional, adversarial one laced with mistrust. We need more of the former, not the latter, to keep us all safe.
Hillary Clinton made that very point while pushing back against Trump’s demonization of Muslims by declaring after the Orlando attack, “Millions of peace-loving Muslims live, work and raise their families across America. And they are the most likely to recognize the insidious effects of radicalization before it’s too late, and the best positioned to help us block it.”
Clearly, if the police have credible evidence, they should vigilantly pursue it regardless of the religion of those involved. No one is asking for special treatment or to allow political correctness to stop the pursuit of potential threats. But no religious, ethnic, or racial group should have their rights stripped away because a few in that community have commited bad acts.
As Khera rightly noted, “It betrays our true values as Americans when we give into fear and single out a group of Americans for discrimination based on how they look or how they pray.” I doubt this matters to Trump. His call to profile millions of Muslim American including African Americans is nothing more than red meat to his base. To the rest of us it’s more evidence of why Trump should never be elected president of the United States.