Students fight police profiling

October 19, 2001

   Student leaders at Berlin's Humboldt University are taking legal action against city police chief Hagen Saberchinsky amid growing student protests over "profiling" of Arab students to smoke out possible sleeper terrorists.

The students claim the university's obligation to provide personal data on students from 15 Arab countries violates data protection laws and incites "hatred against religious groups".

Student representative Bill Hiscott said: "We are prepared to fight this not just politically but in the courts. After all, we are talking about a general suspicion against the people of 15 nations." The campaign has caused considerable discrimination against Arab students, he said.

Meanwhile, student leaders at Muenster University are backing a Jordanian student's legal challenge to profiling. He has complained to the regional court of North Rhine-Westphalia that the investigation is an intrusion upon his right to privacy. He said it is excessive because the law says profiling powers may be implemented only if the lives and freedom of people in Germany are endangered. This is not the case, he argues, because even the interior ministry has said there is no danger of attacks by Islamic groups in Germany.

Student organisations in other universities are considering similar legal steps.

Universities are being compelled to supply data on some students for computer-aided comparison with statistics from state immigration authorities and residents' registration records.

The measures, developed by the police in the 1970s to investigate German terror groups, can be authorised only by state interior ministers or a court. Some of the suicide bombers involved in the attacks on the US had been registered at German universities. The Conference of University Rectors (HRK) supports the "preventive security measures".

• A University of British Columbia academic has been criticised by politicians and media for expressing anti-US sentiments, writes Philip Fine.
Sunera Thobani, a professor of women's studies, said US foreign policy was "soaked in blood" and that suffering caused by US aggression in places such as Iraq was being ignored. Canada's prime minister said her comments were "terrible", and the provincial premier called them "hateful and destructive". A national columnist called her an idiot.

In a statement, the university defended her right as a social critic and said she should be encouraged to express her views.

• The youth wing of Malaysia's Islamic fundamentalist political party has encouraged its Malay Muslim university students to join Taliban forces. 
   

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