In December 2001, Thomas L. Friedman suggested that we all fly naked to fight terrorism in the air.
Friedman made his suggestion, with his tongue only partially, not entirely, in his cheek, after the failed attempt by Richard Reid – the shoe bomber – to blow up an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami. Here’s what Friedman said in his New York Times column on 26 December 2001.
I’m thinking of starting my own airline, which would be called Naked Air. Its motto would be “Everybody flies naked and nobody worries.” Or “Naked Air – where the only thing you wear is a seat belt.”
Think about it. If everybody flew naked, not only would you never have to worry about the passenger next to you carrying box cutters or exploding shoes [or, as we now know, a condom filled with PETN and sewn into his underwear], but no religious fundamentalists of any stripe would ever be caught dead flying nude, or in the presence of nude women, and that alone would keep many potential hijackers out of the skies.
I think Friedman exhibits his usual genius here, but I do disagree with his next sentence: “It’s much more civilized than racial profiling.”
In the aftermath of the failed attempt to bomb Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, an increasing number of people are now calling for such profiling of Muslim passengers. If our goal is to save lives and prevent future terrorist attacks, it would be an excellent idea. El Al, the only airline in the world which openly and unabashedly engages in profiling and separate treatment of Muslim passengers, has not experienced a major terrorist incident in more than 40 years. As one El Al official says, “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” No, not all Muslims are terrorists, but, as I explain in my previous post, half of Muslims worldwide are terrorists or active supporters of terrorism, who would encourage their sons, brothers, and nephews to blow themselves up in an airplane or in a crowded market.
All police officers in the United States, black and white, engage in racial profiling, whether they openly admit it or not (and most don’t), simply because it works. Whether politically correct liberals like it or not, different biological categories of individuals do have different average propensities to engage in crime and violence. Any police officer who truly and entirely eschews profiling of any sort, and acts as if an elderly Asian woman from a wealthy neighborhood is equally likely to engage in violent crime as a young black man from a poor neighborhood will soon be dead and will not live long enough to tell us about the evils of racial profiling.
So if we want to remain safe in the air, it seems to me that we have two choices. Either we learn the lesson from El Al and start treating Muslim passengers differently and put them through additional security checks, or we fly naked.