What It’s Like to Fly as a Muslim, and More

News and notes from around the interweb:

  • And you think I don’t like airport security… My experience being stopped at the airport as a Muslim traveler

    I am glad I went to the airport early. In the morning I asked my husband what are we going to do early in the airport since we didn’t have lounge access. I guess now I know. Have a friendly chat with one of the police officers.

  • Double Points at Amazon: American Express is offering double Membership Rewards points on Amazon purchases through July 31. It’s an “Amex Offer” that you have to log into your account and opt into. Reports are that it’s available to anyone with a Membership Rewards-earning card, although I can’t be certain that’s correct. (HT: One Mile at a Time)

  • All the choices are so good it’s hard to pick: Delta preparing to allow premium cabin customers to pre-select meals the way that American Airlines does.

  • New Starbucks Prepaid Reloadable card: Chase will issue a Starbucks-branded reloadable prepaid card that will earn Starbucks Stars as rewards for Starbucks purchsaes and that otherwise sounds a lot like the Chase Liquid product, but without monthly fees.

  • American will hand out bonuses to nearly 100,000 employees next year. American employees on the whole accepted higher wages than they’d have otherwise received in lieu of profit sharing in their last contracts. Nonetheless, many employee groups are pretty ticked that they did that. And Doug Parker did say recently at the JP Morgan transportation conference that we’d be seeing employees get more money.

    So I suppose it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that American is unilaterally introducing profit sharing. Except that they’re doing it outside of collective bargaining, they’re asking nothing in return. Technically they’ll need to waive some rules to pay union employees more than their contracts allow, though presumably union bosses will go along.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Found the piece on flying with hijab to be interesting, but thought it was more than a bit tone deaf. I am sorry for her that she got caught up in the extra security because of the acts of her co-religionists. But I think that she needs to see the other side of the coin from the perspective of the (non-beleiving) potential victims of those people whom they have declared to be their enemies. While she disagrees about their use of violence and is not a danger, nobody can know that without speaking with her, while outwardly she shares many of the same values and beliefs as them. She is indeed unlucky that a material number of those who share her aesthetic and religious views are engaged in a terror campaign against her Country, and I think that it is unfortunate but understandable that security is interested in learning more about her to assure that she doesn’t have more in common with them than that. I think that chats like this might do much more to promote security than almost any other aspect of the security theater.

  2. I don’t have the Amazon 2x points offer on either my Amex Business Platinum or Amex Business Gold cards. Is it only for personal cards?

  3. If Muslims feel bad about going through extra security imagine how the Jews felt about their whole families being murdered in front of them before dying.

    Poor Muslims.

  4. @Mak Yeah, because terrorists will always share the same ‘aesthetic’ when going through airport security.

    You’re advocating racial profiling, plain and simple, and it won’t make us any more safe.

  5. @Mak the US is bombing, invading, overthrowing, disrupting several countries simultaneously. The people of the these countries often make a distinction between the government and the people of the U.S. And some don’t.

    If your conationalists (assuming you are a NATO country’s citizen) are causing problems all over the world, would it be ok to be stopped at every security point and have a nice chat?

  6. It’s completely unfair, but the best answer when evil doers choose to dress a certain way is to abandon that style of dress to the evil doers. Otherwise your dress both puts you at risk and gives some degree of practical and even moral support to people whose thoughts and actions you abhor.

    You would be smarter not to walk through certain neighborhoods in Los Angeles wearing blue or red. It’s not fair that you don’t have use of those clothing colors, but you don’t want to display a specious association with either of the major criminal gangs unless you want people on the street to fear you and/or attack you.

    Similarly it’s best to isolate terrorists by leaving them as the only ones wearing their chosen “colors”. Reclaim those colors only after the terrorists stop using them.

  7. @gary, @gina: I’m going to be nicer than I was in the last (deleted) thread. If American terrorists were infiltrating into Muslim countries and committing atrocities, questioning of American tourists at the borders of those countries would be perfectly justified. It might be an inconvenience to legitimate tourists, but countries should have a vested interest in protecting their citizens.

    However, that’s not happening. True, US and NATO forces have used legitimate military forces to intervene in several Muslim countries. But until the US starts intervening by sending suicide/homicide bombers into other countries to deliberately target civilians, your analogy is specious.

    That said, muslimtravelgirl’s post was pretty reasonable. She was upset and inconvenienced by being questioned, but several times mentioned that the officers had a country to protect. She also recognized that unusual travel arrangements used by our kind (points and miles people) can look suspicious to the authorities. Consider the old Chang Mai/Chang Rai story that Gary likes to relate. I appreciated the fact that muslimtravelgirl’s post was very much not the typical “HOW DARE THEY QUESTION ME” that you get from grievance mongers.

  8. > “And you think I don’t like airport security”

    But she likes airport security alright. She respects them doing their job of protecting the country. Nothing in her post mentions security theater, or that officers behaved outside of their mandate, or that the mandate is flawed. She just didn’t like it when it suddenly affected her. Nothing new here, most people feel this way (unfortunately, of course).

  9. @Andyandy,”True, US and NATO forces have used legitimate military forces to intervene in several Muslim countries”- Would you help us understand what you mean by “legitimate” here?

  10. @Mak – the same logic applies to you – no one can know if you are a threat until they talk to you, so you should be stopped because you are, well, you.

    @D – the ad hominum attack is so passe. Deflection of the subject is an amateur’s debate tactic. she had nothing to do with what happened to the Jews.

    @nsx – perhaps we should screen anyone with a beard – I saw in the picture that the bombers had beards….. what kind of shoes do you wear, the same as the underwear bombers?

    I usually look forward to the intelligent and witty discussion on this blog. However, I am greatly disappointed in some of the awful comments here. There are about 1.6 billion Muslims. There are but a few fringe groups who call themselves Muslim and are bent on killing people. If you sat down with any Muslim, you would find that they are absolutely horrified by ISIS, et al. (yes, I have had these conversations with Muslims in a Muslim country). You will find that Muslims are pretty much like you. They want to have a happy peaceful life, a good career, and a future for their children. Stop stereotyping and get to know people. Finally, FWIW, I am a conservative Christian.

  11. “What It’s Like to Fly as a Muslim” More click-bait by Gary. No evidence she was profiled because she is a Muslim. You can bet if sharia compliant banks paid credit card referrals Gary would have inserted them.

  12. @UnLuCkY it was certainly the author’s perception, which seems reasonable, and was their title. Etihad issues a sharia-compliant credit card.

  13. @Raj: By legitimate, I mean identifiable uniformed armed forces that generally operate under international agreements (Geneva Convention, Hague Convention, UN mandates, etc.). Non-combatants may be killed by such forces, but with some notable exceptions (as occurred in WWII) they are not deliberately targeted by command authorities.

    @Gary: I looked for the Brussels Bombing thread (twice) but didn’t see it, but I see it now. My mistake!

  14. Thanks for the share Gary.

    I won’t comment on some of the posts because other covered it. However what I would like to say, it is not about being stopped. It is mostly about downloading all the content of ur phone on a server somewhere that you don’t know. There is no information and no idea who looks at it. I am sure not many people will be happy about this, no matter where you are. I also know many would refuse giving it but sadly under these laws they can do pretty much what they want.

  15. @Mak – the same logic applies to you – no one can know if you are a threat until they talk to you, so you should be stopped because you are, well, you.

    That logic really doesn’t apply to me, or really address my point. My point is that the terrorists are all muslims, and while concededly not all Muslims are terrorists, there is a statistical correlation between the two. If you are dressed in the manner of a religious Muslim, you share some of the values of the terrorists, and while you might not believe in violent jihad, you are certainly much more likely to than somebody dressed in more common garb. This is demonstrably not “racial profiling” as race has nothing to do with it — in fact it seems that this woman is Anglo-Saxon and adopted this manner of dress and religion later in life.

    Others made the point of how some would discriminate against those from NATO countries, and I think they have unintentionally made my point for me. It was not at all uncommon during US wars for those from the United States to pretend to be Canadian, sewed Canadian flags on their backpacks, etc., very consciously separating themselves from the acts of their government which they disagreed with. After the fall of the Nazi’s, Germans abroad often referred to themselves as Swiss, to avoid the disgrace that their Country became. To be sure, there are Muslims whom have done the same vis a vis radical Islam, and forcefully distanced themselves from it (i.e., Ayaan Hirsi Ali). It seems to me not unfair to note that those who dress and behave the way the Jihadi’s wish everyone to dress and behave, make the opposite gesture in doing so, and I am sorry to say that I am discomfited by that.

  16. @AndyAndy

    On legitimacy:

    1. USA war on Iraq (second) was not legitimate (not sanctioned by UN)
    2. The overt reason – ridding weapons mass destruction – was false
    3. The USA killed 10,000s innocent civilians

    Five minutes researching this on Google can confirm the above.

    On your prejudice:

    UK government estimates less than 0.05% of local Muslim population are radicalised (note that’s those with extreme views – not the proportion who are terrorists). So not intrinsically a Muslim issue.

  17. @Pete

    If you actually research the facts @Mak’s position is complete insanity.

    1. Most terrorists are not Muslims (see above)
    2. Claiming that a Muslim’s values align with terrorists because of the way they dress is logically absurd

  18. Clearly, given the photos of the suspects in the case of the Belgium bombs, it would have been very easy to profile their values and intent based on their appearance…but hold on a minute…consult the photo from the airport security camera below:


    They clearly have Muslim dress and beards….NOT….@AndyAndy and @Mak you really are a couple of “ignorant twits” (justified in using such given that’s what AndyAndy called my good self).

  19. One can find a “source” on the Internet to “prove” almost any point, no matter how absurd.

    Of the 30+ innocent people who were blown to bits in Brussels this week, 100% of them were victims of Islamic terrorists.

  20. @Pete

    If you steadfastly refuse to accept facts / evidence on which to base your view of the world, there’s really no difference between you and other radicals = wedded to faith-based constructs which defy logic and common sense. You can join the ranks of the creationists, the climate change deniers, the conspiracy theorists, the radicals, and all of the other nut jobs.

    Just remember that you are 555 times more likely to be gunned down by a fellow American than die from a terrorist act…if you see somebody in Muslim dress you better start running very fast…just in case….!

    Enjoy your paranoia.

  21. “Just remember that you are 555 times more likely to be gunned down by a fellow American than die from a terrorist act…if you see somebody in Muslim dress you better start running very fast…just in case….!”

    Thanks for the view from “America,” but not all of us live over there, and perhaps have a clearer viewpoint of what we are dealing with and facing in the rest of the world. Of course, one can point to political kooks and sundry criminals (Baader-Meinhof, ETA, Red Brigades, etc.) which haven’t posed a threat to anybody in decades (though it should be noted that those groups were all closely aligned with the PFLP and other Palestinian Terror Movements) that you can deflect the evidence with, but the simple fact is that 100% of the terrorism that we are discussing that is occurring today — and that people like you seem to not want to discuss or address — is the result of radicalized Jihadist Muslims. The multiple contemporary terror events in Brussels, Paris, London, Madrid, Montauban, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Toulouse, etc. were all — every one, 100%, to a person — conducted by radicalized Muslims on a proclaimed holy war. It is particularly easy for left-wing Americans (at least those outside of NY on 9/11) to ignore the threats that people elsewhere live with, and enjoy the luxury of maintaining their preferred views of the world’s problems, instead of the reality that others have to deal with and pay for everyday.

    Before we begin to deal with the problem, we need to address that the narrative that everybody is equally likely to commit terror attaches is simply imaginary. Yes, one might also be killed slipping and falling in the bathtub, but that doesn’t change this elemental fact.

  22. Pretty easy to make the statistics work in your favor by manipulating the definition of “terrorism”.

    Care to address the clear threat that exists today? If not, why?

  23. @Platy: If you showed me that picture without context, I would guess that those guys were Muslims, even without turbans and robes. I would expect moderately competent terrorists not to dress in overtly “Muslim” garb when they are engaged in one of their religiously motivated attempts to murder as many non-combatants as they possibly can. But by fixating on dress, you are able to beg the question, which is: Is it significant that the Paris, Brussels, London, etc. attackers are all co-religionists?

    You’re very fixated on creationists and “climate change deniers,” aren’t you. What did you think about that terrible mass bombing on Earth Day last years? Wait, what, it didn’t happen? Right, because Creationists aren’t waging jihad against the West. If they were, you can bet we’d be looking a lot harder at churches that Creationist terrorrists attended.

    Your argument that non-muslims also commit terrorism is a straw man. That Daily Beast article is a joke, based largely on non-sequiturs like “more people are killed by toddlers than terrorists.” We shouldn’t be worried about terrorist attacks because there are accidental shootings, drug dealers murder each other, family members murder each other, etc. As for motivations, are other terrorists motivated by other things? Yes, they are. But so what? Does that somehow negate the fact that Islamists are waging violent jihad on the streets of the West? I’ll answer that for you: No. If Breivic was one of many people plotting to kill civilians (instead of a lone murderer), I’d sure as hell want his accomplices and fellow-travelers looked into.

    I can only assume that your citation of the Iraq war is an attempt to justify Muslim terrorism. I don’t see how it does, though. Nor is there much merit to your assertion that US forces have killed tens of thousands of Iraqi non-combatants. The vast majority of civilian deaths in Iraq are attributable to intra-faith, insurgent, or ethnic violence. The Guardian (hardly a US apologist) reports that “14,705 (13%) of all documented civilian deaths were reported as being directly caused by the US-led coalition.”

    Regarding my “prejudice,” I’m less interested in (debatable) figures about the number of Muslims who are “radicalized” (Pew research has some troubling numbers re: Muslim youth who think suicide bombings are “justified”). I’m more interested in the fact that no other religion is employing human bombs to deliberately murder non-combatants.

  24. @AndyAndy

    Your problem is threefold:

    1. You are so fixated on the “Muslim” angle that you risk missing the root causes for people being driven to radicalism and possibly onto criminal or even terrorist acts.

    2. By being fixated on just one aspect (“all Muslims bad”) you risk failing to muster an effective security strategy.

    3. By failing to identify the root causes for radicalism (I propose social disaffection, socio-polictical marginalisation in the community and political instability, including the illegitimate acts by the USA in Middle Eastern countries, the geo-political history of the region, to be on the list for candidates for analysis) you can’t deal with those causes effectively.

    Please at least consider the possibility that it is not Islam intrinsically that is the problem and that your entrenched views have been formulated in a biased political environment where politicians have harnessed anti-Muslim hatred for political self gain – can you be sure your own viewpoint is free of such bias?

    We had a siege in Sydney recently (the Lindt Cafe siege). The Australian government rushed to blame IS (the Prime Minister keen to instil fear in the community for political gain), but the killer was a loner, now presumed mentally deranged, and there is even debate whether the event could even be classified as terrorism. The killer was well known to authorities, but they failed to profile him as a threat so he slipped through the net.

    The point about US based religion is that it demonstrates that blind faith (without temperance through reason and common sense) leads folk into absurd positions (e.g. creationism). Blind faith may need to be on your list of issues to address if you are serious about tackling terrorism and running an effective security strategy.

    If you think modern day “christian” religious belief systems are exempt from hatred and violence, you are living in a dream world. Christian terrorism is alive and well: e.g. gun lovin’ pro lifers – 13 attacks on abortion clinics since 2001, 11 injured recently in Colorado Springs by a gunman, etc. Christian hatred is also evident (e.g. the hate campaigns of the Westboro Baptist Church).

    I would hazard a guess that there are more suicide deaths by victims of church-based sexual abuse than deaths by terrorism in countries such as Australia, USA, UK. Does the fact those abusing priests are christians mean that we denigrate all christians? Or should we look for the root causes and question why some priests are pedophiles?


    @ Mak

    Just for the record – I don’t live in the USA, I live in Australia and was brought up and went to university in the UK: I have spent time in the USA as a tourist for many fantastic vacations and for periods of study in Boston and Miami.

    Since you simply refuse to adopt an evidence based point of view it is pointless to continue to present data for your inevitable denial.

    Per the above please consider that if you want to deal with terrorism effectively you have to get out of the monochrome mindset that is an intrinsic problem with Islam itself.

  25. @platy You assert that it is pointless to argue with me because I refuse to adopt “an evidence based point of view,” but what I think you really mean is that you don’t like my evidence. To the contrary, I approach this problem from a scientific point of view, and instead of simply asserting — without any evidential support — that Muslims are no more likely to be terrorists than the average person (in America, Australia, Europe) because that conclusion fulfills your preferred world view, I approach this mathematically and apply the data to generally accepted Bayesian inference study (Lrelative(a,b)=L(a)/L(b)), and conclude on that basis that being Muslim is positively correlated and are more likely than the rest of the population in being a terrorist and/or supporting their methods.

    Similarly, your criticism of @AndyAndy that he fails to appreciate the root causes of terrorism engage in moral relativism, and again miss the point. There are many people in the world with legitimate grievances — not that I concede that the Jihadi cause is legitimate — but terrorism has not taken hold in almost any other community. I have yet to see any creationists — a creed I don’t myself follow — blow up innocent people in furtherance of their religious sensibilities — zero. While there have been anti-abortion loonies crazy enough to kill people in a small number of incidents, these have been both isolated, and overwhelmingly condemned by an overwhelming number of their co-religionists. Let it also be said, without condoning their behavior in any way, that their targets are those they see as perpetrators, and not random people totally outside of their controversy.

    @Gary Leff that graph is certainly interesting, but I don’t think it does much to prove the point that there is a negative correlation between Muslim immigration and terrorism. One can quibble with the time scale, and note the massive effect of IRA and ETA conflicts which skew the data, and I have doubts about the underlying raw data that I would be curious to look into further if you know of the source. But I think that it is worth mentioning that — at least with regard to the ETA which I know more about — its violent period was ended largely because of public outrage amongst the Basque communities in Spain. I suspect — though don’t claim to know — that the end of IRA violence involved pressure from the non-violent Irish Republican community as well. I am waiting to see this sort of pressure brought to bear by the non-violent Muslim community . . . and I’m still waiting.

  26. @Mak

    I’ve re-read your post and can’t find you offering up any data or evidence – only a repeated assertion that all terrorists are Muslims (having subjectively selected a subset of terrorist events which are radical Muslim related on which to base your statement) and specious statements along the lines that Islam is bad.

    Be careful of your statistical methods – correlation and cause are two different issues and you’ll need to be mindful of which statistical model to use when you are dealing with rare events (radicals = 0.05% of Muslim population as estimated by the UK government and bear in mind you’ll need a very large sample size for hypothesis rejection to prove that you have a Muslim problem, not one of radicalisation). You’ll also need an unbiased dataset.

    You’ve added further statements that can be instantly refuted as garbage (e.g. stating “terrorism has not taken hold in almost any other community” only to quote examples where this has happened – ETA, IRA: and we can others such as Tamils).

    Jessica Stern, lecturer in government at Harvard, quoted in an Australian newspaper (Sydney Morning Herald):

    “…She sets out missteps by the West that would defeat a containment strategy (of IS) :

    – Failure to see that IS’s most numerous victims are Muslims;
    – Conflating IS’s ideology with the religion of Islam;
    – Conflating the victims of jihadist brutality, now seeking refuge in the West, with the perpetrators from whom they are trying to escape;
    – Urging Nuremberg-type laws for Muslims, requiring them to register with the state or denying them entry;
    – Sending in 100,000 troops to defeat IS, while failing to address the underlying problems of disenfranchised Sunni Muslims….”

    And if you still think that christianity is better that Islam consider the extent of abuse by christian churches: estimates of the proportion of catholic priests who engage in pedophilia is around 5% to 20% (i.e. proportionately 400 pedophile priests for every radical Muslim). Many victims suicide. This is a religious cancer in our own western communities. Perhaps you should divert some of your “passion” in that direction? Thousands of criminals in out midst, the victims innocent children, the perpetrators protected by the church, “co-religionists” not speaking out, governments too weak to call the church to account, the church instructing priests not to report crime to the local police in their training despite requirements of civil law, meanwhile the church fat on tax-payers funds.

  27. @platy I’m sorry to disappoint you by not defending pedophile priests or the Catholic Church. Nothing that you’ve said about that subject seems unreasonable to me — and it seems no less reasonable to apply it to the tremendous problems in the Muslim religion. Why you’re double standard?

    The rest of your arguments are equally straw-man in nature. I have established a correlation between Islam and contemporary terrorism related to the link that we are discussing, and I have not suggested that I posess any proof of causation (though it doesn’t seem an entirely unreasonable hypothesis to me). That other communities have resorted to terrorism in history does nothing to change that correlation, and merely reinforces my point that the community must change itself — and not blame the victims for this violence as those seeking to find “root causes” suggest.

    You lastly jump to assumptions about what I think the proper remedies for all of this is. I am actually not one to easily trade freedom for security, and I’m as offended as anybody at the futile and theatrical measures that have become the fashion, and now threaten to be expanded. What I’m suggesting simply is that logic be applied in designing security measures, so those most likely to be threats, based upon simple and widely accepted statistical correlation, are the first to be scrutinised. I have also suggested — as you seem to agree at least with the case of pedophile priests — that those best placed to challenge the terrorists, are those in whose name these attrocities are committed, and that we should hope to see more push back from non-radical Muslims in this regard.

    Separately, but quite relatedly, I’ve just seen a video of a memorial site set up in the Place de la Bourse in Brussels, where the greiving population left candles, memorials, and the flags of all nations in solidarity with the dead. The video shows a woman dressed in hijab picking an Israeli flag out of the memorial, ripping it up, and burying it. I urge you to look it up. For the sake of argument, let’s not try to extrapolate anything beyond this one woman’s feelings from this event — but what do you make of such an action? Do you think she is ready to stand with the victims against the terrorists? Or do you think that she might have a less pure agenda than we would hope and expect?

  28. @Mak

    I do and I don’t recognise a double standard relating to church issues and the Muslim world. On the one hand all religions are fraught with the issue of folk becoming enraptured through blind faith – in that regard the same standard needs to be applied – eventually folk will have to be winned back to moderation (away from radical views) as extreme ideas are exposed as fraud using logic and common sense. The delta in this case is that the pedophilia issue is rampant and pervasive for the Catholic Church whereas the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject radicalism (see extracts below).

    Sit next to a catholic priest on an aircraft and there is fair chance (5 to 20%) you’re in the company of a kiddy fiddler. But sit next to someone you presume to be Muslim, and there is a minuscule chance that they are a radical (0.05%).

    Being a catholic priest would therefore be a useful parameter should you wish to profile for security purposes against pedophilia, but being a Muslim would be a parameter far less useful by orders of magnitude in tracking a radical let alone a terrorist. Presumably the security folk have far more sophisticated models than the very simplistic ideas we’re throwing around on this thread!

    Presuming to know what’s in the mind of one person in the video you cite is ludicrous. You simply have no idea about her state of mind or her history (for example, she may have had relatives killed by Israel – itself a country accused of war crimes such as the targeting of civilians during the Black Friday assault on Rafah 2014 and a country with a difficult and violent history – read, Irgun and terrorism against the British post war, etc). You don’t even know if you are watching a set up and you’ve been sucked in by a piece of propaganda. In any case, even if the video is a true record, her actions are not illegal, let alone criminal and don’t even necessarily indicate a radical.

    What the hell do you mean by a “less than pure agenda” – that is just a slur-laden inference. You advocate a statistical approach, but then fall into the trap of trying to extrapolate from one individual / event to a population of 1.6 billion!

    We are agreed that one key component of the solution needs to come from non radical Muslims. May I offer two extracts for perspective.

    On the issue of the “relationship” between IS and Islam more generally, here is an extract from a briefing note from the Tony Blair Faith Foundation:

    “…ISIS recognises the powerful potential of appeals to Islamic imagery and history. The group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s sermon at Mosul in July, his only public appearance since being declared “Caliph”, made meticulous use of religious symbolism intended to resonate deeply among observant Muslims. In particular Baghdadi’s carefully considered dress, use of language, and Salafi emphases were intended to boost his credentials as a successor to the early Caliphs.
    Despite these frequent appeals to Islamic imagery and history, the vast majority of Muslims reject this “Caliphate” claiming to speak for all of Islam, and concerns about Islamic extremism are particularly high among countries with substantial Muslim populations.
    In September 2014 a group of more than a hundred Muslim scholars and leaders from around the world released an open letter addressed to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, telling the self-proclaimed caliph, that the group’s use of Islamic scripture is illegitimate and perverse. The letter lists a number of practices employed by ISIS that its authors say are explicitly forbidden by Islam including torture, slavery, forced conversions, the denial of rights for women and children, and the killing of innocents…”‘

    And from the Washington Institute published 25 February 2016:

    Based on surveys in a variety of Arab, African, and other predominantly Muslim societies, IS and its affiliates, al-Qaeda, and other jihadist organizations actually have very little popular support. In half a dozen Arab countries polled by the author on this subject, support is down in the low single digits: just 2 to 5 percent in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Palestine (see “ISIS Has Already Lost the War of Ideas, Despite the Specter of Paris Attacks”). Hezbollah has likewise seen its support drop precipitously, to the low teens except among fellow Shiites in Lebanon. Even Hamas has lost much of its support in some places, particularly in Egypt but also in the Gulf.

    Correspondingly, overwhelming majorities — around 95 percent — of key Arab publics have a negative view of IS. These are not estimates; these reflect actual hard data from scientific surveys organized and sponsored by the author in September 2014, June 2015, and September 2015. They were conducted by leading independent, and totally apolitical, regional commercial pollsters, who must remain anonymous for fear of reprisal. Each survey used personal interviews among a representative national geographic probability sample of one thousand adult citizens.

    In Jordan, where IS scored a relatively “high” 8 percent approval in September 2014, the rating fell in the September 2015 survey, to just 4 percent. At this point, therefore, the evidence is completely compelling that IS has nothing more than a minuscule base of support in a large portion of the Arab world. To be sure, even a small group can do some serious damage. But a mass movement IS clearly is not. And over the past year, as these surveys demonstrate, its already low popularity among major Arab publics has been shrinking, not rising. The notion that IS or other such groups could take over any other country, in the face of overwhelming popular and government opposition, is ludicrous.

    Moreover, each public was asked what should be its government’s number-one and number-two foreign policy priorities, from a list of six options. The winner in all four countries was “the conflict against Daesh,” as the Islamic State is also known. By varying margins, that struggle topped all five other options offered, including: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the conflict in Syria, the conflict between Iran and Arab countries, the conflict between sects or movements of Islam, and the conflict in Yemen…”

    And on the issue of why Islamic countries appear not to be doing more (if I read this correctly = political complexities and power plays), extracted from a recent article on News.com.au:

    That’s not an easy question to answer.
    But Mr Bowker said it basically comes down to Iran.
    “The reality is that Islamic State is seen in the region as less of a problem than the prospect of an ascendant Iran,” he explained.
    “The primary underlying concern as far as the future of the regional security situation is that they (Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, UAE) regard Iran as being intent upon hegemony over the Persian Gulf region and maintaining its primacy in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
    “Now Islamic State, while it does pose a threat to each of the Arab states surrounding Iraq and Syria, is nevertheless seen as a longer term problem and one which can be contained within those countries, in Syria and Iraq, where it currently operates, provided that forces that are opposed to Islamic State and also to the Syrian regime are viable.
    “The Saudis and Emiratis are providing material assistance to the jihadist elements within Syria in pursuit of a desire to oust the Syrian regime.
    “Their concern about IS, while a real concern, will continue to take a back seat until such time they have reduced the threat of Iran by removing it as a principle player in the region, and by removing the Assad regime in Syria, providing that Islamic State forces do not overthrow the government in Baghdad.
    “They are prepared to see the Americans carry the principle burden there.”
    Mr Bowker, who has written several books on the tensions in Egypt and the Middle East, also said Saudi Arabia, Iran and other surrounding Arab nations were more concerned about the situation in Yemen.
    He explained that Yemen, which is in the middle of a civil war, geographically poses a greater threat than Syria.
    Earlier this year Houthi rebel forces tried to overthrow the Yemeni government but failed to take control of the capital Aden after Saudi Arabia launched massive air strikes (with the help of the US) to prevent them from taking over.
    Mr Bowker said the Houthi rebels, which are Shia Islam like Iran, are seen as a threat to the Sunni Saudi Arabians.
    “The Yemen situation is a slightly different picture,” Mr Bowker said. “The Saudis and the Emiratis are doing the heavy lifting there because again they see the Iranians as the primary beneficiaries of the Houthi uprising in Yemen. So, they are basically conducting this horrendous bombing campaign which basically destroyed the infrastructure of Yemen, rather than see the Houthis establish ongoing control over all over Yemen.
    “The Houthi element also does provide a more immediate threat to Saudi interests, because of the border with Yemen, than Islamic State at the moment which does not have a significant presence along either the Saudi or Jordanian border…”

    We are agreed that solutions need to be logical, be informed by valid datasets, presumably backed with statistical analysis. May I suggest that this would require a far more sophisticated approach than…Muslim = terrorist! Security resources obviously have some challenges having failed in France and Belgium to catch the recent attackers.

    We are agreed it would be great if that could be achieved without the creeping loss of personal freedoms!

    And on that note, happy and safe travels!

  29. @platy Of course, I claim no inside knowledge of what is in that woman’s head, and the video serves as nothing but a Rorschach Test, and offers more insight into the mind of the viewer than the person being viewed. While you don’t seem to favor giving Catholic Priests the benefit of any doubt, you seem very willing to do so for this woman, engaging in wild speculative rationalizations of why she is emboldened to trespass and tamper with a memorial in a manner consistent with the Jihadi agenda and weltanschauung, and your willingness to acquit her for it in light of what you see as crimes of those of other religions and peoples. We both agree that objective statistical analysis can be important, but consider the possibility that your viewpoints are tainted by a lack of objectivity, which have been crowded out by your preconceived notions and prejudices.

    I too wish you safe travels!

  30. @Mak

    …”you don’t seem to favor giving Catholic Priests the benefit of any doubt..”

    Well that depends on the context.

    There is extensive data on the linkage between catholic priests and pedophilia and ongoing cover up by the church – for example, from the Royal Commission here is Australia, victim’s stories and claims and personal knowledge (friends and relatives directly affected).

    Were I in a position to need to profile any priests (wasn’t this thread originally about profiling for security purposes?), for example, for the provision of a “blue card” to enable working with children – I would need to consider those data to mitigate risk of harm to children based on consideration of (1) impact and (2) likelihood. Since both impact (criminal activity, psychological suffering, suicide) and likelihood (estimates that 5- 20% catholic priests are pedophiles) are high, I would regard that the possibility that a given priest was a pedophile would need to be addressed a a priority risk. I would expect the relevant authorities to be doing just that.

    If I had children and was considering sending them to a catholic school, I would need to find a way of making sure I wasn’t exposing those children to harm.

    “…why she is emboldened to trespass and tamper with a memorial in a manner consistent with the Jihadi agenda…”

    Er, I thought we were agreed we just don’t know what was going on there. I assume your language is deliberately inflammatory (e.g. not sure how “trespass” can occur in a public place).

    In any case, I don’t think either of us are advocating inference from one event since we both agree on a statistically informed approach.

    “…your willingness to acquit her for it in light of what you see as crimes of those of other religions and peoples…”

    I’m not acquitting her of anything since neither of us know what is going on. I’m simply illustrating the point that there are many possible explanations for the video footage.

    “…your viewpoints are tainted by a lack of objectivity, which have been crowded out by your preconceived notions and prejudices…”

    Of course we have our own individual points of view. For what it’s worth, I have trained and worked as a research scientist, including analyses of behaviour, statistical modelling, mathematical models of behaviour, complex systems, etc., so I am quite comfortable with the process of evolving points of view and resolving alternate / conflicting hypotheses. My father was a journalist / news editor so I have had much exposure to debate on the subject of bias. Hopefully, this makes me more aware than some and flexible to change a point of view using an evidence-based approach.

  31. @ Mak

    “…The video shows a woman dressed in hijab picking an Israeli flag out of the memorial, ripping it up, and burying it…”

    Just for the record. The video does NOT show the woman RIPPING UP up an Israeli flag. It shows her TYING UP the flag and placing underneath another flag.

    A second video shows a bystander retrieve and untie the flag and replace it (refer Sunday Express article 25 March).

    These details have been widely misreported and sensationalised, both to the claim that flag was destroyed (it wasn’t) and that no bystanders acted (one did).

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