WASHINGTON – Since Taliban sympathizers Johnny Walker and the late Charles Bishop are young white males, Rev. Al Sharpton suggests that perhaps the U.S. government should profile young white men as potential terrorists.
The presidential hopeful and black civil rights activist used the 20-year-old Taliban fighter imprisoned in Afghanistan and the 15-year-old teen who flew a plane into a Tampa office building Jan. 5 to scold the Bush administration for allowing the profiling of Arab Americans in the wake of Sept. 11.
On Saturday, he will mark the occasion of civil rights activist Martin Luther King's birthday to lead a Washington rally against Attorney General John Ashcroft in hopes of invigorating a base primarily built on racial issues.
"It is our belief that if Dr. King were alive today, he would be haunted by these issues," Sharpton said, referring to the recent changes in roving wiretap laws, attorney-client privacy, and law enforcement's stepped up efforts to locate for deportation illegal immigrants from nations that harbor or sponsor terrorists, primarily located in the Middle East and Africa.
Sharpton labeled the attempt to track down aliens "racial profiling," since there are an estimated 300,000 people of varying ethnic backgrounds living illegally in the United States.
Sharpton's political base, primarily blacks upset by what they see as an unjust legal system, may not be in the mood to rattle the saber of race. A recent Gallup poll shows black support for the president has more than doubled to 68 percent since Sept. 11.
What Sharpton considers "right" might also contradict the pulse of the American public in general following the worst terrorist attacks in history.
While 75 percent of respondents in a December poll conducted by Harvard and National Public Radio said they disapproved of law enforcement use of racial profiling to catch criminals in general, 66 percent approved of profiling Arabs and Middle Easterners if they might be involved in terrorist acts.
When asked about the public mood, Sharpton retorted, "You don't fight moral issues with polls."
"I question the polls," he said. "But if the polls are statistically right, they are morally wrong. Many Americans don't understand what they are giving up."
Sharpton said he expects Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Sen. John Conyers, D-Mich., along with Arab American Institute President James Zogby to help him lead the event, the size of which he would not speculate.
He also announced plans to travel to Pakistan and India to remind leaders there that in 1948, non-violent Indian independence leader Mohandas Ghandi was assassinated during his attempts to mend the rift between Muslims and Hindus in that region.
"I think we should raise the moral and clergy concerns to the leadership of both nations," he said. "Whatever steps we can take to de-escalate war should be taken."