Im not sure whether

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December 23, 2001 10:46 a.m.

I’m not sure whether it was admirable discretion or facile, unhelpful political correctness (I’m leaning heavily toward the latter) behind the networks’ initial decision to ignore or keep mum about the question most everyone, yesterday, was likely asking about ‘Richard Reid,’ the guy who tried to light his shoes on fire aboard that flight from Paris to Miami: his seeming ethnic extraction.

For better or worse, people trying to discover whether this was Al Qaeda-related would want to know whether the suspect was a Muslim.

His apparent identification as 28 year old Sri Lankan national Tariq Raja doesn’t completely resolve the matter. ‘Tariq’ is an Arabic name, as far as I know. And in South Asia I would assume it signifies being a Muslim. Yet, according to the CIA, Sri Lanka is only 7% Muslim. Of course, how little we know about what’s happening here is driven home by the fact that some government officials are refusing to rule out the possibility that the guy was just trying to light a cigarette.

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