Does Goldblog Fear Muslim Flyers?

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A Goldblog reader writes:

Can you answer the question of whether or not you personally get nervous if you see someone you think is a Muslim on your flights?

The answer is no, because I do the math. There are roughly 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. Of these 1.3 billion Muslims, it is my belief that only several thousand, or at most, several tens of thousands, are directly involved in Islamist terrorism. Therefore, the chance that a Muslim in any given airport is a terrorist is very small. I also don't believe that al-Qaeda and like-minded groups and individuals are targeting air travel, because they did that already (this is one of the reasons I think the TSA represents a misapplication of government resources). I also don't believe that I would be able to identify a terrorist on my flight, or in the waiting area of an airport. In fact, I'm pretty sure that if I had been seated next to Muhammad Atta on September 11th, 2001, I would have engaged him in conversation (because that is, alas, what I do) and, if he had responded, I would have spent the time before he cut my throat asking him about various restaurants in Cairo that I have enjoyed very much.

So, no, I don't worry about Muslims I see in airports. I do worry, like most people, about Islamist violence in this age of the super-empowered terrorist (and I do worry, as I have said before, about attacks on pre-security areas of airports), but I don't assume for a second that any individual Muslim on my radar screen is a terrorist.

I'm actually writing this while waiting for the Delta Shuttle at LaGuardia, and I see a lot of people who look like they have terrorized the American economy, but no one who looks like an al-Qaeda terrorist.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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