WEB EXCLUSIVE: ‘Crossfire’ examines racial profiling in wake of attacks

Posted 1:45 p.m. Sept. 28-CNN’s “Crossfire” continued its stay at GW Thursday night with the Rev. Al Sharpton and other activists sharing ideas about racial profiling and discrimination in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Sharpton, head of the National Action Network, Arab American Institute President James Zogby and World War II internment camp survivor Cherry Tsutsumida called for Americans to stop blaming all persons of Arab descent or Muslim faith for the attacks and warned that discrimination will only compound the tragedy.

The show aired the day government officials released photographs of 19 suspected hijackers, all of whom were of Arab descent.

“Crossfire” host Bill Press expressed concern that this may promote racial discord among Americans and lead to an assumption that all Arabs may be terrorists. He asked Zogby if he thought Americans might be justified in being uneasy about flying with Arab passengers on board.

Zogby condemned all profiling.

Tsutsumida, a member of the Japanese American Memorial Foundation who spent four years in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, added that U.S. law enforcement authorities should be concentrating on preventing another tragedy and not waste time attempting to lay blame.

Sharpton, who is considering a White House bid in 2004, agreed and said instead of blaming an entire race for the actions of a few, the government should concentrate on improving U.S. intelligence agencies that failed to prevent the attacks.

Host Tucker Carlson played devil’s advocate, pointing out that the suspected terrorists do look somewhat alike and share ethnic and religious ties. He asked if it would be sensible to assume their accomplices would also be Arab.

Zogby dismissed the idea, pointing out that the terrorists’ actions before Sept. 11, such as buying four thousand dollar first class one-way airline tickets in cash, are better indicators of terrorist activity than race or religion.

Students asked the guests about what could have provoked such acts and what steps could be done to prevents further attacks. The panel unanimously agreed that the United States needs to be more engaged in the concerns of other nations and needs to promote stronger ties with the rest of the world, rather than alienating our neighbors as we may have in the past.

When asked about restricting immigration to promote national security, Zogby and Sharpton each stated that such actions would betray the sense of freedom and fairness that define America.

“Crossfire” will broadcast live from the Jack Morton Auditorium in the Media and Public Affairs building for one more night tonight, beginning at 6:30 p.m. with authors Sebastian Yunger (“The Perfect Storm”) and Lori Millright (“Story of Revenge”).

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