In his latest entry on the Huffington Post, Robert Amsterdam comments on the reactions to the attempted terror attack over Detroit by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and why the U.S. decision to place Nigerian passengers coming into the United States onto the terrorism watch list focuses on the wrong problem.
Consider what we know about the 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. He is far from a typical Nigerian, and comes from an elite and prestigious family (his own father responsibly reported his concerns to the authorities). He studied engineering at the privileged and expensive University College of London, where many believe he was recruited, while he apparently obtained the relatively rare PETN explosive from Yemen.
In other words, Abdulmutallab couldn’t be more different than most of his compatriots, yet the U.S. is punishing 150 million innocent Nigerians with this ill-considered policy. If the U.S. insists upon treating so many people like terrorists, perhaps in the future their wish might be granted. Besides, if anybody should be made to stand in a special line at customs, it should be those folks from the TSA, FBI, and CIA who failed to connect the dots with so much information to prevent this.
As someone who has worked in Nigeria on-and-off for more than 30 years and traveled there many times, I can tell you that the country may have problems, but it is not the world’s next hotbed of extremism. Nigerian Muslims and Christians have forged a mostly harmonious co-existence that is rare and desirable, and culturally there exists the type of moderate Islam that is a beacon for the future. On a personal level, I have known many peaceful, honest, and hard working Nigerians, and it is disappointing to see them discriminated against because of this one errant individual.
Photo credit: A TSA officer screens airline passengers in Terminal C at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport December 27, 2009 in Dallas, Texas. Pre-flight screenings were stepped up after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, of Nigeria was accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day. (Getty Images)