The threat of terrorism is at an all-time low–so why the increases government surveillance on Muslim communities?
In the past few weeks the New York Police Department has taken on shady methods to increase its “fight against terrorism”, in a time when there is little. Through widespread religious profiling and infiltration, screening the hate film “The Third Jihad” (made by the same creators of Obsession) in a training for police officers, spying on Shia Muslim communities and Muslim Student Associations over the NE, the NYPD is re-waging the war against Muslim Americans.
However, according to recent studies, terrorism is at an all time low. The Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security reports that the number of planned violent attacks on American soil has decreased significantly over the last ten years. Much of this can be attributed to the Muslim community working with police departments across the country to unveil terrorist plots. It has been Muslims that have foiled terrorism plots of people acting suspiciously in their community, not widespread surveillance. Now, with the revelations of the NYPD’s underground war on the Muslim community, Muslims around the country will become less inclined to help the government crackdown on extremism.
In response to the NYPD’s actions, organizations like the Muslim Public Affairs Council and Muslim Student Associations across the Northeast are calling for Ray Kelly, Commissioner of the NYPD, to step down. Kelly has come out defending his tactics over the increased surveillance. He has launched “crawlers”, or undercover cops to spy on Mosques and record sermons, writing down licenses of cars parked at the Mosques, and monitoring who enters and leaves these Mosques. This was only the beginning of the NYPD’s anti-Muslim efforts.
The NYPD redirected its focus toward Shia communities, in order to root out Iranian extremists that they feared the Iranian government had instituted in the US to get revenge for the economic sanctions. The Palestinian community, although not Shia, were also canvassed in order to look for Hamas supporters. For many of the Shia Iranians monitored, they came to the United States to escape the government surveillance, only to be monitored here too. What makes the increased surveillance on Shia Muslims (and Palestinians, although to a lesser extent) so controversial is that the NYPD is not supposed to monitor communities solely based on its ethnicity or religion. However that’s exactly what they’re doing.
The most recent controversy with the NYPD hast been on Muslim students across the Northeast. For weeks the NYPD has been spying on Muslim students involved in university organizations, mostly known as Muslim Student Unions or Associations. The campuses monitored include Yale, Columbia, New York University, Brooklyn College and the University of Pennsylvania. In one of the more bizarre cases, the NYPD sent an undercover officer to befriend a group of Muslim students and attended a whitewater rafting trip where he tried to learn more about the students, gave their names and the number of times they pray to the police.
DemocracyNow! interviewed Jaward Rasul, one of the students on the whitewater rafting trip who was spied on by the NYPD:
What the NYPD is doing is in line with what the Republican Presidential candidates are saying we need more of. The candidates see the backlash toward the NYPD as being overly politically correct. They preach for us to do what is “necessary” to protect our safety. But what they ignore, which libertarian Ron Paul has got it right, is the civil liberties that are being trampled on in the Muslim community. The Muslim community have multiple reasons to be weary of the government: The PATRIOT Act which allows wire-tapping and access to library records of anyone deemed suspicious (and to the NYPD, the more religious one is the more suspicious they become), the National Defense Authorization Act that excuses due process for US citizens thought to be engaging in a terrorist attack, and now government surveillance on all Muslims in New York. The Muslims are not protesting the NYPD because they have something to hide; we’re just beginning to see the Muslim community refusing to allow their rights to be trampled any longer.