When politicians publicly speak out against the violations of Arab and Muslim American civil liberties, they deserve applause. It is a courageous move, considering how much hate and misunderstanding there is surrounding both communities nationwide.
Most politicians turn their face away from the hateful rhetoric and policies targeting Muslims and Arabs, because it puts them at risk of losing supporters and elections.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is serving his first term, deserves praise for supporting the end of the NYPD’s Muslim Surveillance Program. He defended not only the Muslim American community, but also the U.S. Constitution, which the program blatantly violated. Unfortunately, there usually seems to be an exception to the Constitution when it comes to Muslims.
After Sept. 11, 2001, the intelligence division of the NYPD scrutinized the Muslim community in New York and surrounding cities, by spying on Islamic houses of worship, Muslim student organizations and establishments frequented by Muslims.
Through the program, the NYPD was “mapping out the human terrain of the Muslim community” and gathering secret police files on the social and religious gatherings of Muslims.
The demographic unit had created psychological warfare in the Muslim American community by obtaining information on where Muslims lived, the restaurants they ate at, the mosques they prayed in, and the grocery stores where they shopped.
Despite the investigations, evidence of terrorism was never found at any mosque or Islamic organization.
In a statement, de Blasio said canceling the program was “a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys.”
Billions of dollars have been spent trying to catch terrorists and gather information on the American Muslim community. Concentrating on trying to catch “potential” terrorists distracts law enforcement from real criminals and issues including rape, robbery and murders.
Of course, preventing terrorism is critical. But law enforcement cannot monitor an entire community based on the actions of a few, and it cannot surveil individuals without reasonable evidence.
This week, FBI director James Comey visited Detroit, saying counterterrorism was the bureau’s top priority in the region. He added that the agency plans on hiring 1000 new people who will be sent where the risk and need is the greatest. What evidence does the bureau have to support its claim that terrorism in the region is a major issue? We hope Michigan’s large Muslim and Arab population isn’t enough.
In the past, the FBI has been accused of sending informants into local mosques to get evidence of suspicious activity and to learn more about the community. That is an incredible waste of resources.
We hope the FBI is responsible and follows its own policies by making sure it can undertake counterterrorism measures without infringing on Muslim civil liberties. If it does violate its own policies against profiling again, we can only hope and pray that more of our political leaders, neighbors and friends outside the Muslim community are as brave as de Blasio and take a stance to defend the community. We cannot fight this battle alone!
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