On Monday, Donald Trump and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio hailed counter-terrorism tactics that civil rights advocates found alarming, especially as Islamophobic attacks are on the rise amid rancorous campaign rhetoric.
Their comments come after a Saturday night bombing in Manhattan injured 29 people. An Afghan-born suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, is in police custody, charged with federal and state crimes for his alleged role in the Saturday night bombing that only caused minor injuries. The explosive devices could have caused severe injuries or death, authorities said.
Trump praised Israel’s ethnic profiling policies, and De Blasio said that an emergency alert with a terror suspect’s name would be useful in a manhunt. In a bizarre morning, a Democrat and a Republican both endorsed different forms of racial or ethnic profiling, with the Republican presidential candidate recommending it as a practice for law enforcement and de Blasio, while not mentioning profiling itself, said the public and their smartphones would be tools for law enforcement in tracking down fugitives.
The message sent via the city’s Office of Emergency Management read “WANTED: Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28-yr-old-male. See media for pic. Call 9-1-1 if seen.” Such advisories have so far been reserved for weather emergencies or abducted children.
It’s not the first time Trump has hailed Israel’s security policies as a model for the United States. The Republican presidential candidate has called for other collective punishment of Muslims, including a “temporary” ban on Muslim immigration, as a way to stop attacks before they happen.
“You know in Israel, they profile,” Trump told Fox and Friends’ just hours before Rahami’s arrest Monday in Linden, New Jersey following a shootout.
“They’ve done an unbelievable job — as good as you can do. But Israel has done an unbelievable job. And they’ll profile. They profile. They see somebody that’s suspicious. They will profile. They will take that person in. They will check out.”
So far, ethnic profiling did not play a role in Rahami’s capture. But the emergency alert might have, according to de Blasio, who hailed it as “the future” of getting the public to assist law enforcement.
“We think it’s a very valuable tool. From what we know right now, it definitely contributed to the successful apprehension of the suspect,” de Blasio told reporters Monday. Ramahi was found by a barkeep, passed out in the vestibule of a bar, but other evidence, including a cell phone rigged to an unexploded device and surveillance video, also helped identify him.
Lamis Deek, a civil rights attorney, said that the policy puts the public at risk, because the public’s zeal to catch the bomber could lead some to take profiling into their own hands. More than that they might not know how to approach an individual who is armed and willing to die, as investigators say Rahami was, citing his journals, the AP reported.
“It struck me as very irresponsible, it almost led an attempt to encourage civilian engagement, a civilian witch hunt of sorts it’s really how it appears the fact that it also showed up with a name, a name that is quite common among Muslim community, which cuts across all ethnicities. Anybody, especially children, could have been harmed by an encouragement to take action or behave violently or aggressively. We’re fortunate that so far nobody has been hurt,” she said.
The message, delivered to millions of phones with a klaxon blare at 8:00 am, relied on the public to “know what the right thing to do is.”
In keeping with Trump’s persistent appeals to be a friend to law enforcement, he said authorities hands are tied by political correctness, even though they know who the bad guys are. They could profile, and get things right.
“Our local police, they know who a lot of these people are. They are afraid to do anything about it because they don’t want to be accused of, uh, profiling. And they don’t want to be accused of all sorts of things,” Trump said in an interview on Fox News’ morning show, Fox and Friends.
After a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June, Trump also called for an Israeli-style security system that treats people as suspects thanks to their appearance or name. Visitors to Israel who have gone through Ben Gurion have experienced this kind of profiling based on their ethnic background, with security officials often asking fliers for the origin of their names and the birthplaces of their parents.
Trump’s “we have no choice” attitude in matters of security has alarmed civil liberties groups and Muslim Americans, who already feel vulnerable to profiling and attacks by fellow citizens against them and their places of worship. Trump’s rhetoric against Muslims coincided with a steady rise over the last year in assaults against Muslim Americans, often women whose faith is sometimes reflected in wearing hijab.
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) said that profiling was both ethically wrong and useless.
“Law enforcement experts have repeatedly stated that racial and religious profiling is counter-productive to making our nation more safe and more secure,” Hooper said. “ You have to base law enforcement on actual criminal activity or actual evidence of criminal wrong doing. To merely target people based on their race or ethnicity or national origin or faith alienates the very population you need to reach out to conduct proper law enforcement,” Hooper told Mondoweiss.
“And it is really is unconscionable that Donald Trump once again goes to the lowest common denominator and fear-mongering to boost his political campaign based on guilt by association,” he added.
Trump’s call for Israeli-style profiling comes 50 days before the general election. The real estate developer, who bested 16 other Republican candidates for the nomination, has been gaining in polls against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. After holding a lead through most of August, Clinton and Trump are now in a statistical tie nationwide, and Trump has caught up to Clinton in major battleground states like Florida and Ohio, according to 538.