Arkansas police escorted a Muslim couple out of a shopping mall Saturday because they were suspected of video recording, which went against mall policy that forbids photography without permission.
But police did not say a word to the countless people who snapped photos of the couple as they were being escorted out of the mall, who also happened to be violating the policy of Central Mall in Fort Smith.
However, those people were not wearing traditional Muslim attire, which turned them into terrorists in the eyes of fearful Arkansas shoppers.
And these were not even the usual brown-skinned Muslims that many Americans believe should not even be allowed into the country, but white-skinned American citizens who apparently converted to Islam.
However, the Muslim couple was already on the radar of the Muldrow Police Department, which had circulated a flyer earlier this month saying Alan Crawford and Daphne Ridenour, were a “credible threat to do something to make national news.”
Generally, whenever police refer to something as a “credible threat,” we should take it with a grain of salt as we learned after the Baltimore Police Department issued the same warning about rival gang members joining forces to “take out” police officers.
But in this case, it appears that the Muldrow Police Department were correct in their warning that the couple was about to do something to make “national news.”
However, getting kicked out of a mall in a neighboring city for video recording is hardly the impression they were giving out in their warning.
Fort Smith police said they only kicked them out of the mall at the request of Central Mall personnel, who said they were only trying to enforce their policy.
They also said the couple broke no laws, so they will face no charges.
A local television news station showed viewers a sign at the entrance of the mall that stated photography, videography and audio recording is not allowed without prior permission.
But the mall’s Facebook page encourages photography through its “Photo Spot” contest where shoppers are told to take photos at one of six “holiday photo spots” in order to win prizes as you can see in the image below.
Also, in this day and age of social media, it is not uncommon for people to take photos inside the mall and post them to Instagram or Facebook as you can see here.
So the policy appears to be selective.
According to the police report, officers were called because people were concerned about the couple’s action.
“I had two unknown subjects come up to me and advise me that a male subject wearing a thobe was video recording everyone in the mall and he was video-taping the entrances of several stores,” stated officer Anthony Cox in the police report.
According to the report, mall security told Crawford he was not allowed to record video in the mall according to mall policy.
People who were in the mall took pictures as Crawford, his wife and son were escorted from the property. Those pictures, along with several other posts about the incident, were shared on Facebook more than 2,000 times. The posts are worded with phrases like “terrorist threat on the mall” and “Muslims have been scoping the layout of the mall.” Police have not confirmed any threats and the Crawfords are speaking out about what people are saying about them. Alan Crawford said a Fort Smith police officer approached him and asked for his drivers license.
“He informed me that he needed me to lift up my thobe in order to obtain my ID. What crime I committed, I don’t know,” he said. “I wasn’t aware that police officers show up five at a time to enforce mall law. If you want me to leave, I will leave happily.”
Crawford said he was at the mall to hand out cards for a local charity and to shop with his wife. He said he did not see a sign posted on the mall entrance about recording video not being allowed.
In the interview with KFSM, Crawford denied recording in the mall, saying he only recorded audio with the police, but that has not been published anywhere as far as I can see.
When asked if he ever recorded video inside of the mall Crawford said he only recorded audio.
“I audio recorded the police officer and held my camera in the manner that would lead him to believe that I did video tape while he screamed at me and told me that ‘I can confiscate your phone’. You can’t confiscate my phone for mall law. I violated mall law, OK? Which wasn’t even clearly posted,” he said.
As the couple was being escorted out, along with their toddler, a man named Cory Milligan snapped some photos and posted them on Facebook, appearing to have done so outside the designated “holiday photo spots.”
He described the photos as “cops escorting terrorists from the mall,” accusing them of yelling “Al Qaeda” as they were being led out, but that appears to be mostly his imagination.
But his photos have been shared almost 1,000 times, so the intended result of instilling fear and Islamophobia seemed to succeed.
Also adding to the fear is a woman named Miranda Bradley who claims there is a different set of Muslims who have been casing the mall, much more sinister than the ones that are making national news, but police are “keeping it hush hush,” apparently only concerned with white Muslims and their toddlers.
As the local news story made it rounds on Facebook, many people voiced relief that this couple had been apprehended before they could carry out whatever imagined plot they had in mind.
But the truth is, there is no evidence that terrorists take photos of their intended targets beforehand.
That was pointed out by security expert Bruce Schneier in 2008 in a memorable column titled “The War on Photography,” which I am forced to repost about once a year.
What is it with photographers these days? Are they really all terrorists, or does everyone just think they are?
Since 9/11, there has been an increasing war on photography. Photographers have been harassed, questioned, detained, arrested or worse, and declared to be unwelcome. We’ve been repeatedly told to watch out for photographers, especially suspicious ones. Clearly any terrorist is going to first photograph his target, so vigilance is required.
Except that it’s nonsense. The 9/11 terrorists didn’t photograph anything. Nor did the London transport bombers, the Madrid subway bombers, or the liquid bombers arrested in 2006. Timothy McVeigh didn’t photograph the Oklahoma City Federal Building. The Unabomber didn’t photograph anything; neither did shoe-bomber Richard Reid. Photographs aren’t being found amongst the papers of Palestinian suicide bombers. The IRA wasn’t known for its photography. Even those manufactured terrorist plots that the US government likes to talk about — the Ft. Dix terrorists, the JFK airport bombers, the Miami 7, the Lackawanna 6 — no photography.
Given that real terrorists, and even wannabe terrorists, don’t seem to photograph anything, why is it such pervasive conventional wisdom that terrorists photograph their targets? Why are our fears so great that we have no choice but to be suspicious of any photographer?
Because it’s a movie-plot threat.
Since that article was published, there have been several terrorist attacks, but still, no evidence that any of the terrorists used cameras beforehand.
In fact, one of the first thing police look for after terrorist attacks is photo and video evidence from witnesses.