American Muslims and civil rights groups across the nation have called foul after the Associated Press released information of NYPD’s religious profiling programs yesterday. Labeling entire mosques, and hence the communities they serve, as well as Islamic groups as terrorist enterprises has allowed the New York Police Department to unlawfully investigate and invade the privacy of people based on their religious faith. The instrumental word here being ‘unlawful’.
The bad news is that this is not breaking news from AP or for the American public. But the good news is that a recent measure passed by New York’s city council shows that officials are taking action.
The news wire service has been investigating NYPD in this regard for several years. In 2011 it released similar reports about how police were scrutinizing entire neighborhoods based on ethnicity and nothing else. City officials along with civil right advocates protested even then. The same year, Egyptian sheik Reda Shata told New York Magazine how he was one of many law-abiding citizens who were on a discriminatory Muslim ‘watch list’ despite his efforts to help the authorities in their post 9/11 investigations. Even the religious leaders closest to New York city Mayor Michael Bloomberg felt like they were being watched, according to the magazine.
So it’s clear that the veil was lifted from aggressive crime prevention tactics in post-9/11 New York a while ago.
However,legislation was passed by NY City Council about a week ago to curb NYPD’s discriminatory tactics, according to AP. Bloomberg and NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly previously shot down the measure, which calls to keep a check on police ‘stop and frisk’ tactics and their racial profiling of Muslims. Fortunately, the council over rode Bloomberg’s veto of the measure.
So civil rights group should feel a little at ease, especially since Bloomberg was a staunch opponent of this monumental piece of legislation, saying that it will make it "harder for our police officers to protect New Yorkers and continue to drive down crime."
While AP’s revelations show a blatant disregard for a community’s right to practice a certain religion without prejudice, which many find offensive and a violation of basic freedoms, NYPD’s profiling of entire mosques and neighborhoods is also against the law.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the country’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, has once again called on New York officials to enforce law that currently prohibits ‘every member of the police department or other law enforcement officer shall be prohibited from racial or ethnic profiling.’ The organization held a press conference outside NYPD headquarters Wednesday afternoon to publicly decry the police departments ‘Terror’ designation for mosques.
CAIR had previously called on the Justice Department (DOJ) regarding covert NYPD-CIA activities that they felt were ‘illegal’ surveillance of Muslims back in 2011 as well.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the DOJ for the unlawful surveillance activity that has been going on for years, according to the AP investigation. The reporters responsible for digging up the dirt on NYPD have released their finding in detail in their book called "Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden's Final Plot Against America."
A strong advocate for the rights of minorities in America, the ACLU recently spoke out against a similar profiling in the country’s treatment of immigration applications filed by Muslims.
As the 12th anniversary for 9/11 approaches, findings like those revealed by AP raise important questions about the civil liberties of Americans being exploited under the rubric of 9/11 and how effective discriminatory policies have been in fighting terrorism at home. The latter question is particularly important to ask on the day after a Muslim military psychiatrist responsible for shooting 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009, was sentenced to death. Is Islamophobia, as demonstrated by the public as well as government agencies, isolating the Muslim community, thus leading to more hate and violence in America?