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Resist new travel measures mrn

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(source: VOCfm Online)


The increased security measures being introduced in many countries after a failed attempt to bomb a US plane last month amounted to clear racial and religious profiling. As such, it should be resisted more than accommodated, said Iqbal Jassat, chairperson of the Gauteng lobby group, the Media Review Network (MRN), on Tuesday evening while speaking on VOC’s Late Night Live.

The comment came after the US announced that it would toughen security measures for US-bound airline passengers from or via 14 countries. This includes Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen, Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba. Passengers holding passports from those nations, or taking flights that originate or pass through any of them, will be pulled aside for pat-downs and extra screening. Among others, their luggage and clothing will be checked for traces of explosive and they will be required to pass through controversial full-body screeners at airports equipped with the machines.

According to Jassat, such measures would of necessity mean that US Muslims in particular, their family, friends or visitors from mainly Muslim countries, would be treated in a manner that could only be described as completely unfair and discriminatory. "I think (these measures) are something that must be resisted more than accommodated. But the kind of resistance that I talk about is not one that will include any form of toytoying or protesting at airports. It refers to getting civil society engaged and mobilised against the effects of the continuing war on terror." This, Jassat said, was the bigger concern, as manifested once again by the Delta airline incident. It showed that "discredited56continues to have an impact on ordinary people. This should be the basic concern, not only for Muslims but also for people from third world countries – particularly Nigeria and Somalia – who are now subject to racial profiling and unfair discrimination." Jassat said such discrimination has already begun and people who have suffered under it have now way to overcome it or to defend themselves. "So it would be unfortunate if Muslims from these countries and those who are frequent travellers were to resign themselves to this kind of clear violation of human rights, even if it is under pretext of additional security measures." Get worse According to Jassat, the security measures are likely to reach even more ridiculous limits, to the extent that people who wish to travel safely will take their own precautions to shield themselves from scrutiny, such as not donning a fez or shaving their beards. He referred to the debate that has been unleashed in the US media after rightwing elements began calling for people – mainly men – who clearly have Muslim names like Abdul, Ahmed or Mohamed – to be put on a list for intensive security checks. "But both these arguments take us away from the core issue, which is whether human rights – which is enshrined in most of the constitutions in Western Europe – would permit such unfair prejudice to people from Africa, South East Asia or the Middle East. That is what must be addressed, rather than succumbing to the dictates of those who would blindly want to extend the negative impact that this illegitimate56has had on ordinary people," Jassat said. As for US president Barack Obama's role, Jassat said while many had been excited when he took over as the new US president over a year ago, most political pundits who followed his administration agree that he was clearly not in control of the "securo-crats who dictate American internal and foreign policy. Obama would have to be viewed as one who has unfortunately, been compelled to follow the legacy of his neo-con predecessor, George W Bush." He said this has had a negative impact on many people who had looked forward to a new dawn in American politics. To make matters worse,  he added, there were many questions to be asked about how the so-called terror lists were drafted, by whom and what criteria was used since it seemed evident that once you were on the already overburdened list, you were unlikely to be removed from it. "In our case as far as South Africa is concerned, we know how ridiculous it is when a well know political commentator, Adam Habib, and his family had been subjected to this. But I think more importantly for us is to determine who those hidden agents are who operate as intelligence operatives within different countries, including in South Africa. They provide names that is unfairly put on these lists without giving those people a chance under due process of law to defend themselves," Jassat said. VOC