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Tuesday, 8 October, 2002, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
Should the United States fingerprint all Muslims at points of entry?
The United States has introduced measures that could mean 35 million foreign visitors who come into the country can be photographed and fingerprinted.
Since the anniversary of the 11 September, visitors from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya and Syria have been quietly taken aside for questioning.
Now, when visitors arrive from there, or from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Yemen, men aged 16-45 will be formally registered with the authorities.
The Arab American community says it is angry and bitter that people will be targeted on the basis of their race and religion.
"There is already a general anti-Muslim hysteria," said Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. "It's their country, so I don't know what we can do about it. Of course I'm upset. I am not a thief. I am not a terrorist."
Do you think the United States should to be implementing this immigration policy? Do you think it will help identify terrorists? Or, does this policy at the point of entry to the US malign Muslims?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The USA needs to be careful about this. It should not be so much Muslims that are questioned as it should be people from countries that shelter terrorists. Remember: All terrorists are NOT Muslims, and all Muslims are NOT terrorists. Take the IRA in Ireland. they're not Muslims, but they're terrorists.
The USA is doing the right thing. Here in Saudi Arabia they take away your passport if you're not a Saudi national and you need a visa to both enter and leave this country. No-one from this part of the world should complain about the extra security measures the US has put in place. In fact, today we were informed the Saudi government are planning to photograph and fingerprint Americans and other selected foreigners (westerners)entering. A bit of tit for tat.
I find it humorous that people who are not citizens of the United States are criticising our anti-terror security measures. It is easy for foreigners who were not standing in the rubble of the World Trade Centre to judge policies that are enacted to protect innocent American citizens. I hope that we can develop a cost-effective and efficient system to scan all visitors to ensure we are all treated fairly.
Kim McMillen, Indiana, USA
These measures are indeed draconian. But unless there is some change towards democracy and tolerance for other religions in some Islamic countries, there may be no option but to view inhabitants of those countries as potential terrorists.
It has little do to with religion or race. It has everything to do with criminal profiling. The targeted countries are on our terror watch list, and all of the September 11 terrorists were young men from counties on our terror watch list. Criminal profiling plays the odds. I wish they would also screen women since we're now seeing rabid female terrorist suicide bombers in Israel. Unfortunately, we won't catch everyone who wishes to do us harm, but it's a start. Our borders are so huge and so porous, and we have so many foreign visitors that we have to try to protect ourselves.
You know what? I'm just getting tired of fighting things like this .. and tired of repeating the same things, over and over. I'm a US citizen and have been all my life. I'm a professional who travels quite frequently for my job. And, big surprise, the random security checks that are already in place always manage to pick me out. No matter how early I book my ticket. My tickets are always round-trip. Yet I still managed to get searched at least 3 times before boarding a plane. For those of you who are concerned about whether or not it will get worse. Ask yourself this, "Hasn't it already?" Its scary when we don't notice these things.
Han Suk Kim, Korea
"The land of the free", I don't think so! This ludicrous overreaction is exactly the repressive sort of action the terrorists seek to achieve. I am not a Muslim but I have great sympathy for the vast majority of peace loving followers of that religion, this discriminatory action will only serve to exacerbate an already volatile situation and breed further mistrust and loathing. If the US authorities are serious about eliminating threats to their country they should be fingerprinting everyone who arrives at their doorstep. I would have no objection to that.
Implementing tougher security for everyone at airports is a must. We would all feel safer and only the guilty will have anything to fear.
A racist/anti-semitic policy will breed further anti US sentiment that is clearly in need of controlling rather than stoking its fires.
This discrimination is both naive and careless.
Since it is Americans that are currently being violently discriminated against by extreme Islam, it is only prudent to fingerprint and photograph those who visit the US from Arab/Muslim nations. Furthermore, I would limit the visitors from those nations until they reform their religion.
The US has a right and duty to protect its citizens against criminals. Those who do not wish to commit crimes have nothing to fear. I support the US policy of fingerprinting foreign aliens wishing to visit the US. I just wish Canada also had a similar policy. Given Mahathir's policy of expelling illegal aliens, this man has no moral right to lecture anyone.
I think the new policy is inherently racist and will only add fuel to the fires of hate that are raging in the Middle East. In a real democracy, the society should never sacrifice its principles at the first sign of trouble. What America should do is acknowledge that its Muslim citizens, residents and visitors are just as welcome as before, and take the moral high ground. Otherwise, Uncle Sam is no better than the terrorists who seek to destroy it. Is that so hard to see?
John Jackson, USA
The discriminatory view expressed in the proposed procedure flies in the face of the freedoms that US citizens hold dear. It's like saying "we believe all people are equal, except when we are bit frightened".
It's what you believe when things are tough that counts.
The US measures are both logical and necessary. They do target people on the basis of ethnicity, religion and country of origin and that is exactly what they should do because these factors are indicators for terrorists. If some visitors to the US don't like it then that raises questions about the motive for their visit and their attitude towards terrorism.
The terrorists of 9/11 fit the profile of young, Muslim men, but it is important to keep in mind that terrorism within the USA have also been perpetrated by individuals of various other races and religions. A more prudent and less biased move would be to enforce more stringent checks on everyone entering the country instead of the ridiculous random checks currently enforced at airports (which amazingly enough seem to randomly pick out non-Caucasians in the crowd!).
What most Americans are to forget is the Timothy McVeigh was a pure white American-born military veteran. McVeigh carried out the largest act of terrorism against the USA prior to 9/11. Colour of skin, religion, national origin has nothing to do with being good or evil.
I agree that the US has much work to do on its foreign policy and public image, but these are long-term problems and will not be resolved overnight. In the meantime, the US is facing a very real short-term problem of terrorists entering this country with the sole purpose of doing harm to US citizens.
If technology permitted, I'd be all for everyone being IDed before entering the country, but at this point the technology is simply not in place. Therefore, the US is forced to do the best it can with the limited resources it has.
I am afraid the people US want to prevent coming to the US will then start coming to Europe and use Europe as there base, thus making Europe a unsafe place.
The US policy will only be effective if Europe also adopts the same security measures. In fact it is must for the safety of Europe in the long run. It is well known that al-Qaeda and other Muslim terror organizations are much more established in Europe than in the US and are just a time bomb, which can explode any time.
This administration is doing the same thing to its own citizens through the Patriot Act. This latest anti-Muslim edict is merely being consistent with their policies which are not reflective of the spirit of our Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Congress must intervene and restore our democracy. Government made the same mistake with the treatment of the Japanese-Americans in World War II. We must learn from history - or be condemned to repeat it.
The US policy is required as the Sep 11th incidents proved that most of the hijackers/terrorists were from the Middle East and were here on student visas. This is racial profiling, I agree but its for the good of the nation. If the terrorists were coming from Australia, the UK, India the people from these countries would face the same restrictions.
I pretty sure that all the people who are happy with the new policy are not the people who will have to go through this process. If it was turned around I bet they would see for what it is, an ignorant, racist and impractical policy.
Those who object to the new immigration rules should simply avoid travelling to the USA. Saudi Arabia has many laws which others consider unfair but when you enter a country you accept their rules.
I think people are being completely irrational : this is not a racist policy. The country is simply doing everything it can to protect its citizens at a critical moment in US foreign policy.
How sad that the Bush administration has to resort to something like this to cover up the failure of successive US governments in curbing global anti-US sentiment. I grew up in Saudi Arabia and went to an American school that had military protection from attack. That was 25 years ago. You'd think the US would have wised up by now but no. Not only is it an action unbecoming of the so-called 'Leader of the Free World', but it will backfire because it fans the flame of anti-Americanism around the world. It doesn't protect Americans, it makes them even more likely targets than they are now.
Can't expect any less from this government. I wish Saudi Arabia should also set the same rules for US citizens..
I do not think that this policy has anything to do with the colour of people's skin. It has to do with passports from countries who have precedents for having citizens involved in terrorist activities. Simple. You have a Passport from a certain country, you get scrutinised a bit more (or a lot more, if there is reason for it).
Ahmad Shuaib, USA
If the USA operated a less biased policy towards Israel's breach of UN resolutions, then it would not have to resort to such extreme measures.
I am horrified at the blatant racism of these measures. It is clearly a regression and the USA is on its way to creating further isolationism and greater anger in those communities that are already anti-American. This demonstrates an extreme paranoia on the part of the US government.
It is unconstitutional to identify anyone for special treatment based on race, religion, or political views. Therefore, why not just photograph and fingerprint every person entering this country?
This is already in place for all who want to stay here. Currently, this is part Green Card Citizenship process, but it is being made into a big deal because of all the post 9/11 hysteria.
This sounds like the beginning of the end for freedom. Isn't that what the terrorists wanted in the first place?
Did we say that America is the freest place in the world? What a myth. This portrays an attitude of 'if your are white you're alright, but if you're anything else you are in trouble'. I am sad for the American people. They just don't have the leadership to instil confidence.
I don't believe that this policy is designed to actually protect the US borders from terrorists. This, along with many other policies are directed more towards the overall public opinion of Americans in order to further the general anti-Muslim hysteria, which is highly necessary in order to continue or expand Bush's so called War on Terrorism. This would not be possible without generating this type of hysteria among the general public.
Ali Chaudrey, USA
I am not surprised by this move. I am positive that the US authorities are not going to achieve anything with their inhuman and inflammatory policies, except for creating more anger and hatred among the Muslim community.
Yes the US should be implementing this immigration policy, and so should we.
I'm sure all the Hindus, Sikhs and Christians with brown skin will really appreciate having their fingerprints taken when they enter the US.
I do not see why our democratic nature should provide the easy access for terrorist and those who wish to harm me in my country. Yes, you can argue that this is racist but quite frankly I would rather rest in the knowledge that there are strict measures to stop fundamentalist terrorists from entering the country then being accused of racism.
This simply shows how the US intelligence services have lost the initiative and are running scared.
If you have nothing to hide then I don't think there's an issue but not all terrorists are Muslims - I'm not too sure how to get around this issue but I'm not sure this is the way.
I am no rocket scientist, but I would guess that if a terrorist wanted to go into the States he'd forge a passport! On a more serious note, the US will only stop terrorists once they start to address the root causes and not the end result.
The US are clearly discriminating against Muslims with this immigration policy. Why target only visitors from Muslim countries? What about countries that have committed gross atrocities against innocent people, specifically Israel?
The US should try screening its senior politicians for signs of idiocy.
It will take generations to repair the international image of the US after the Bush administration has finished.
To every American every Muslim is a terrorist. Now we know what the American thinks of Muslims around the world. I wonder if the rulers of Saudi Arabia going to have to do this stupid process??
I have travelled extensively, including some of the targeted countries and US INS/Customs have been by far the easiest to pass through.
This is unfortunately a necessary step. While the PM of Malaysia is concerned about anti-Muslim hysteria, he neglects that all of the terrorists do fit a profile of young male Muslims.
This policy is good and justified and to not implement it would be negligent. The United States must protect its borders from terrorist infiltrators, and if some people are offended by how it is done - they are just being overly sensitive and petty.
I think that the USA or any country has the right to protect themselves against perceived threats. In more than a few countries round the world there would be no debate on issues like these, at least the UK and the USA give their people the freedom to voice their opinions, for and against. I do not think these measures are anti-Muslim purely anti-terrorist.
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