If the hat fits

It’s funny how a series of unconnected events can be strung together to make a cohesive topical argument – we could link a series of stories about North Queensland in the papers recently. The death of a tourist at the spectacular Yongala wreck dive on her honeymoon a couple of years ago and the subsequent questioning of her husband, the case of the missing sailors on Kaz II etc can be linked to suggest North Queensland is Australia’s Bermuda triangle… Or, in the case that I’m actually writing about I’ll link a TV series with an Australian news story and this Pakistani story…

In an episode of the West Wing filmed as a direct response to the 9-11 attacks, White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry is interviewing a terror suspect who works at the White House in a policy role, his name has come up in investigations – or someone with the same name – and he was once questioned in relation to a bomb threat at his school… here’s a little bit of the script:

ALI: It’s not uncommon for Arab Americans to be the first suspected when that sort of thing happens.
LEO: I can’t imagine why.
LEO:No, I’m trying to figure out why anytime there’s any terrorist activity, people always assume its Arabs. I’m racking my brain.
ALI: I don’t know the answer to that, Mr. McGarry, but I can tell you it’s horrible.
LEO:Well, that’s the price you pay.
ALI: (angry) Excuse me? The price for what?
LEO (to the agent) Continue the questions.

After the real terrorist is caught Leo goes to see Ali in his office.

LEO:[solemnly] Good evening.
Ali looks up.
LEO:[stiffly] That’s the price you pay… for having the same physical features as criminals. That’s what I was gonna say.
ALI:[quietly] No kidding.
LEO: I’m sorry about that. Also about the crack I made about teaching Muslim women how to drive.
Ali looks down, taking this in. Leo, nervously, stiffly, his eyes wandering a bit, searches for the correct words.
LEO:I think if you talk to people who know me, they’d tell you that… that was unlike me, you know? We’re obviously all under, um… a greater than usual amount of… you know. And like you pointed out, with the shooting and everything…

A long silence falls between them. Ali looks up and searches Leo’s face.

Mistaken identity must suck if you’re of Arab descent – Bulldogs winger and Lebanese internationl, Hazem El Masri was recently at the wrong end of some from the NSW Police. El Masri was sitting outside a cafe in Sydney with two friends when 9 police officers came from nowhere and surrounded them – El Masri and his lawyer have, of course, claimed that this was racially motivated.

NSW Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Frank Mennilli says the community expects groups of loitering Arabs to be approached. He said the men were spoken to because they were sitting on a bench outside shops late at night and there had been break-ins and vandalism in the area over the past three or four months.

“We’ve got three male persons sitting on a bench after 11pm at night, the shops are closed, and I think the community would expect the police to go and speak to these people.”

Sure, it sucks. The police have to do this sort of thing because that’s the nature of the business – lebanese gangs have been responsible for all sorts of social ills in Sydney – but spare a thought for this guy…

“Pakistani intelligence agents have arrested Osama bin Laden twice, it was revealed Monday. Or at least they have arrested a man who looks very much like the al-Qa’eda leader.

More than six feet tall and with the same aquiline nose as bin Laden, Sher Akbar comes from an Afghan village, Bagh e Metal, in an area where US officials believe bin Laden has been hiding.”

3 thoughts on “If the hat fits”

  1. He should start wearing a sign that says “You arrested me last week. I’m not bin Laden.”

  2. It must also be a bummer when certain terrorist leaders have names like al-Masri – aurally close enough for many to make the connection – “he’s got the same name as a terrorist!”

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