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.