Thursday, March 01, 2012

NYPD spying on Muslim community damages trust, relationships

Guest post by Rabia Chaudry

Rabia Chaudry is an associate fellow of the Truman National Security Project and the president of the Safe Nation Collaborative.

A few years ago I joined about twenty other Muslim community leaders gathered to meet a regional outreach officer from a law enforcement agency. Many present had been living in the area for decades and were pillars of their communities. The officer introduced himself, noting that he had been in the region for over 15 years. He then mentioned that about 90 percent of his work, and the work of his agency, was in the Muslim community. We were shocked; none of us had ever met him before. We left the meeting feeling unnerved that there was so much "work" being done upon us without our knowledge. It was my first realization that the relationship between law enforcement and American Muslims was dysfunctional.

Training agents and officers that Islam is inherently violent, mapping Muslim establishments and mosques, infiltrating Muslim students at universities, and spying on Muslim leaders – these are only a few of the numerous stories recently uncovered about missteps taken by U.S. law enforcement agencies in their dealings with Muslims. The extent to which these invasive tactics have been unapologetically supported by officials such as Mayor Bloomberg, and apparently funded by the White House, has shocked the civil liberties world and eroded the trust of American Muslims.

The systematic dismantling by some law enforcement agencies, most notably the NYPD, of the goodwill built with Muslims over the last decade is truly puzzling. Studies show that there is no prevalence of radicalization amongst American Muslims, no correlation between religiosity and violence, and no reliable profile of a terrorist. Furthermore, Muslims have assisted authorities in foiling one third of all terror plots involving other Muslims since 9/11.

So the question must be asked: why do law enforcement agencies continue to engage in policies and tactics that, in light of empirical evidence, are futile in the fight against terror? Why are tremendous amounts of resources being wasted in monitoring and profiling communities of Muslims when the net result amounts to nothing more than notes on halal fried chicken joints or the number of times students prayed during a white water rafting trip?

Cynics may suggest that our law enforcement agencies are full of bigots and xenophobes or have no regard for civil liberties. However, I have more faith in those who risk their lives daily to protect us. The only reasonable explanation of the behavior of agencies such as the NYPD, LAPD, and FBI is that they sincerely believe that Islam is an intrinsically violent, radicalizing force and that Muslims are potential threats to security.

Such a conclusion is absurd not only to the nearly two billion peaceful Muslims in the world, but also to those who live and work alongside Muslims every day. Yet our law enforcement agencies continue to be taught that the Quran encourages violence, that religious and practicing Muslims view violent jihad as an obligation, and that peaceful Muslim practice deceit. According to "Manufacturing the Muslim Menace" (pdf), a comprehensive 2011 study by Thomas Cincotta of Political Research Associates, there exists an entire industry devoted to teaching law enforcement officers to hate Islam and Muslims.

It is said that you cannot build a tower on a crooked foundation. In this case, the foundation must be rebuilt. The only way to remedy the destructive education about Islam and Muslims given to law enforcement is to re-educate them. In fact, last year the White House and Department of Justice came to this very conclusion. They issued guidelines for trainers on Islam and Muslims and called for closer local collaboration between Muslim and law enforcement communities. The memo seems not to have reached everyone, however. Just recently, Tennessee approved law enforcement training by John Guandolo, one of the same Islamophobic trainers cited in Cincotta's study.

It has to be understood that American Muslims hold the highest stakes when it comes to keeping America safe from threats arising from rogue Muslims; no group has more to lose from a terror attack. Law enforcement must realize that it works from a place of common interest with Muslims and that the cooperation and trust of Muslims is essential to successful counter-terror operations. These understandings will only be internalized and reflected in policies and strategies when law enforcement agencies are re-trained on Islam and Muslims. Considering the significant damaging of trust in the past few weeks, it is time that law enforcement worked with Muslim communities instead of around them by making it a priority to arm themselves with accurate information about Islam.

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  • Yeah, but then there is that little Jihad problem.

    On 9/12 they should have shut the door on Muslim immigration, student visas, the whole 9 yards.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:40 AM  

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