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Arab-American Activist Finds New Role with TSA

posted on: Mar 19, 2010

Nawar Shora was online Friday, March 19 at 10 a.m. ET discusses his move from the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee to a post at the Transportation Security Administration, where he will be a senior adviser on civil rights.

Read more: Nawar Shora takes battle for Arab and Muslim rights inside the TSA

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Profiling: Hi Nawar — can you tell us how you personally feel about profiling? Do you think it is ever effective or necessary?

Nawar Shora: Hello, thank you for your question. I have worked with good people in law enforcement for the past decade and strongly believe that profiling based on race or national origin is not only wrong, but also poor law enforcement. The recent examples of “Jihad Jane” and the other woman from Colorado speak to that point. For us to do an effective job against the bad guys and gals, we need to look at the big picture and focus in on the threats. Adding hay to the haystack won’t make us safer.

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Arlington, Va.: How much actual influence do you expect to have at the TSA in setting policy? Do you worry that you’re just going to be used as cover, so they can claim they take civil rights more seriously than they do?

Nawar Shora: For several years, I have worked with the Office of Civil Rights and Liberties at TSA, the Office of the Special Counselor, and the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (since its inception in 2003), while I don’t believe I’ll be setting policy, I will have a certain impact on influencing policy, working with the rest of the team, and addressing civil rights and civil liberties concerns from within.

I do not believe I am merely a “check the box” hire. There are good people in those offices who are fighting the good fight, I am simply one more ingredient to help the greater team.

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Washington, D.C.: When training FBI and other law enforcement agents, how open are they to your message generally and how do you approach the more skeptical ones in the group?

Nawar Shora: Certainly, generally speaking FBI agents and law enforcement overall have been very candid and open. It takes a certain amount of courage to know when you don’t know. In most cases, they were very open, understanding, and appreciative.

There were a few instances of apprehension, but once we would get the seminar going, they relax and realized what I had to offer was going to help everyone.

I also try to be very approachable, and frankly, a little funny. I believe people learn and retain more if they are having fun, so the process isn’t “homework” it’s just a conversation.

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Bethesda, Md.: What are your personal goals for your time at the TSA?

Nawar Shora: I hope and plan on being a part of the team, working with TSA and DHS towards the greater good. I look forward to new challenges as I have been in this position for almost a decade.

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Arlington, Va.: What was it like growing up Arab in West Virginia?

Nawar Shora: Great Q, thanks.

It was a wonderful place to grow up, I moved there at age 10, I was a Kiwi, short, round, and hairy! And while I did get some discrimination, once people got to know me and got over my odd name or occasional weird sandwich, they embraced me. I still have a number of very close friends from WV, and have strong ties to the state, my home state.

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Falls Church, Va.: As the census forms are being mailed out, it’s worth remembering that back in 2003 the Government used census data to identify neighborhoods in the US that are heavily populated by Arabs. Now that you are in the Government, how would you advise Arab-Americans as to whether they should return their census forms?

Nawar Shora: Yes, I recall that and we have been working with Census for a while. What went on in 2003 was mistake. But the community still needs to participate in the Census and be counted, it is our civic duty. If and when there are allegations of abuse, then the proper steps will be taken, but the community needs to be involved in our society.

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Washington, D.C.: How much hesitation or suspicion about working for the U.S. government is there in the Arab-American community?

Nawar Shora: Even though Arabs have been in this land, since pre-America (read my book, lol), and they have done well over the decades. There exists a lot of mistrust, particularly after 9/11. I know of good people of Arab origin serving in all branches of the government, but generally, I find that people are hesitant or unsure. I always say, we as a community need to learn from our other ethnic and religious communities, and become more involved in our government. That’s the beauty of our society, anyone can join the system.

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Lose-Lose: You mention in the story that it can be a “lose-lose” to work for the government. Did you get some grief from Arab-American friends and associates, and how did you respond to it?

Nawar Shora: Thank you, I was clarifying that over the years, yes, I have been criticized, sometimes questioned, from all ends, from the Arab and Muslim communities, but also from mainstream Americans. That’s what I was referring to with the lose-lose comment.

Just looking at the comments below the story, you’ll see some people thinking I’m going to bring in a strict “PC” policy and profile old white little old ladies. It’s just sad that some people think this way. As I stated before, racial or ethnic profiling (or any race or ethnicity) is poor and ineffective law enforcement.

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Laurel: What’s the status on that case about five religious leaders in Minneapolis, who claimed they were ethno/religiously profiled, while others claimed they deliberately exhibited terrorist profile behavior?

Nawar Shora: Thank you for your question, I have not joined TSA yet so I’m not really in a fair position to answer this question.

Washington Post