Recent news about the New York Police Department (NYPD) and its surveillance of the Muslim community makes me frightened for my country and my fellow citizens. Not only have we started two illegal, lengthy and expensive wars and are now threatening a third, but we have seemed to abandon some of our core principles in the process.
Our justice system is supposed to operate on the premise
that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, it seems the NYPD
has put that aside and is classifying a whole community as suspect, simply
because of their religion.
Most of the
mainstream media responding to this story have described this as an issue
between Muslims and the government. While Muslims' civil rights and civil
liberties are under attack, let me be clear -- Muslims aren't the only people
concerned. Concerns about the NYPD's activities extend beyond the Muslim
community to all those who want the United States to uphold the Constitution.
Lessons learned during World War II led Pastor Martin Niemoller
they came for the communists ,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
they came for the trade
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
they came for the Jews ,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
"The idea of Muslim students being monitored by the NYPD genuinely scares me," said Jessica Camacho, a student at Bloomfield College. "I feel as if we are entering another period of history where people of a certain background will be rounded up and kept away to ensure safety without due process. This fear of all Muslims because a few extremists committed horrible crimes is unjust and misplaced. As a society, we can't allow fear to guide our judgments."
Mayor Bloomberg's refusal to launch an investigation into
the practices employed by the NYPD because he asserts they were "appropriate, legal
and constitutional" is misguided. Not only did the NYPD seem to employ
"profiling" rather than follow specific leads, their surveillance extended to
Upstate New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey locations that
included Muslim Student Associations (MSAs) at Rutgers University. The fact
that over the past 40 years, some dozen individuals arrested in connection with
"terrorist" activities once belonged to a Muslim Student Association does not
provide nearly enough evidence to secretly monitor meetings of today's MSAs and
employs a common logical principle that is important for policymakers to remember
-- correlation does not imply causality.
NYPD activities now being publicized are already having a chilling
effect on Muslims and their right to peaceably assemble and to freely exercise
their religion. Students are afraid to attend meetings for fear of using the wrong
word or discussing a sensitive topic. Muslim leaders are concerned that people are
shying away from attending their mosques out of fear that their mosques are