NYPD Monitors College-Age Muslims

Because of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in New York City, many New Yorkers have become suspicious of Muslims. NYPD has taken action. Muslims have been put under surveillance by police in NYC due to past attacks conducted by terrorists of the Muslim faith. According to an article in The Washington Post, NYPD started an “undercover spy operation” in 2007. Police have been observing and recording where Muslims live, work and even pray.

This sparks major controversy among citizens, both Muslims and others, about human rights and equality. A poll from New York Daily News says that 82 percent of New York citizens approve of this surveillance for fear of future terrorist attacks. Others such as anthropology professor at the University Dr. Stanton Green feel differently. “From what I know of this practice, it is illegal. It tramples the Constitution and it indicates ethnic profiling and discrimination against Muslims. It is not the American way of justice and freedom because it did not apparently follow the due process protections that undergird the American way of life,” says Green.

Chief of Police at the University, Bill McElrath, said, “I think the issue is one of trying to balance the legitimate requirement of law enforcement to keep people safe, with the need to safeguard the constitutional rights of individuals. My personal belief is that law enforcement should not target any group based solely on their race, sex or sexual orientation without any other information substantiating the investigation.” He also voices that it is the job of law enforcement to pursue potential crime.

Professor of Anthropology at the University Dr. William Mitchell also says that Muslim surveillance is a bad idea because it stereotypes an entire group based on the actions of a few. “Like most Christians, most Muslims just want to get on with their lives. In particular, most Muslim students just want to study and succeed in their careers. Why should they be stereotyped?” says Mitchell.

Some people have a problem with the surveillance because it goes against the separation of church and state. “There is supposed to be a separation between church and state. The police are state funded and making the idea of separation from the church is becoming a thing of the past,” says first year student Shannon Yingst.

“The reason that only Muslims are being monitored is simply because radical Muslims are the ones who are responsible for 9/11,” says Green. “Muslims are often inappropriately confused with terrorism,” remarks Mitchell. He says most Muslims are peaceful people. “And so too, most Jews are peaceful, even when the Jewish Defense League some years ago had been blowing up Russian offices i n N ew York C ity. W e would never think of watching all Catholics or all Jews for these actions of a minority, but that is exactly what we are doing when the police are monitoring Muslim groups,” he says.

Not only has this surveillance spread through New York City, but is extending to Muslim communities in Long Island and New Jersey. This also included Muslim college students at various universities. The NYPD has been operating well outside its jurisdiction, according to The Washington Post.

This surveillance could not be justified even if Muslims knew they were being watched, believes Yingst. “Nothing would make this situation justifiable, the police are discriminating. Isn’t discrimination a crime?” “The act is not only wrong, but it is diverting the NYPD from what they should be doing,” believes Mitchell.

What is it that the NYPD or any police department is supposed to do? Mitchell says they are set in place to protect us, and should very well be watching out for terrorists, but often the police go after easy targets, or people who are exercising their democratic right to protest government policies. “That was certainly the case during the anti-Vietnam war protests of the 60’s and 70’s, when the police began monitoring pacifist groups, simply because they were against the war. The police should be monitoring terrorism, not Muslims.”

It is also wrong from the legal perspective, according to Green. “Of course religious behaviors should not be surveyed. In addition, the FBI is set up to carry proper investigations that are called for when they have sufficient cause and warrants,” he says.

The controversy continues over Muslim surveillance in New York City. While some feel it is a good idea, many others are greatly opposed. Green comments, “Such monitoring, moreover, is ineffective. It transforms an entire group into secondary citizens or residents, creating ethnic and religious hierarchies that to me are very un-American.”

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