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NYPD wrong to spy on Muslim students

Guest Columnist

Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Updated: Sunday, March 18, 2012 18:03

Imagine this: You are a typical Muslim student at Yale University who attends the meetings of a Muslim student group every week. It has been 11 years since a self-proclaimed Muslim committed a major terrorist attack on American soil. Little to your knowledge, however, an out-of-state police department has planted an informant within your student organization, across state lines and far outside its jurisdiction, in order to keep a record of what you say, what you do, where you go and who you talk to.

Does this story sound fictional or perhaps even a little ridiculous? Well, it is exactly the kind of operation the New York City Police Department conducted on Muslim students at university campuses across the Northeast. The Associated Press has revealed in a series of investigative reports that the NYPD has been spying using its intelligence division, sometimes outside New York’s city limits, as part of a surveillance program targeting Muslims. The NYPD has been conducting “Weekly [Muslim Student Association] Reports” highlighting all activities and events that the student groups held.

They also built databases to keep a record of American converts who chose to change their names to ones sounding Arabic. According to the Huffington Post, meetings and websites run by Muslim student groups at Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers and 13 other colleges in the Northeast were constantly probed for information, which was then entered into a secret database.

The same article mentions that the NYPD even went as far as to send an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip with Muslim students to document all their conversations and the number of times each student prayed.

Though the NYPD says that they conducted the undercover operation in the same manner that the FBI would, therein lies one of the problems: The NYPD is not a federal agency, and some of its activities have gone far beyond what a city police department is permitted to do.

The other is the issue of profiling Muslim Americans simply because they are Muslim. Practicing Islam makes you no more likely to be a threat than someone who practices any other religion. Had it been other religious student groups that were being targeted, such a scandal would have been unacceptable and unlikely to have even occurred. 

Sadly, this sort of un-American trampling of civil liberties seems commonplace in our day. The New York Times courageously wrote in a Sunday editorial that “today Muslims are the target. In the past it was protesters against the Vietnam War, civil rights activists, socialists. Tomorrow it will be another vulnerable group whose lawful behavior is blended into criminal activity.”

Fortunately, criticism of the NYPD has been coming in heavy. Yale President Richard Levin wrote, “in the strongest possible terms, police surveillance based on religion, nationality, or peacefully expressed political opinions is antithetical to the values of Yale, the academic community, and the United States … Muslims and Islam itself have too often been the target of thoughtless stereotyping, misplaced fear, and bigotry.”

Rutgers University, Syracuse University, Columbia University, University of Buffalo, City College and others have released similar statements. Officials including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker have expressed their shock and have promised to launch investigations. FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Ward, who is in charge of the FBI in Newark, also stated his concerns that the NYPD’s extensive surveillance of Muslims jeopardize access to its communities.

Profiling and discrimination of Muslims is an upsetting cycle of modern America that does not draw nearly the amount of attention and protest that it should. Although it is reassuring that university and public officials have come to the defense of its Muslim student populations, law enforcement needs to make serious strides to pursue actual leads — within their jurisdictions — instead of imaginary ones based on Islamophobia.

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6 comments

Anonymous
Sat Mar 17 2012 15:34
I rather go to a campus full of peaceful Muslim students than anywhere near so called Christan organizations like the Westboro Baptist Church. An unfair comparison? That's what thousands of Muslisms go through on a daily basis.

Great article. Don't let some stupid comments get you down, Ali.

Veronica Knives
Fri Mar 16 2012 19:05
Great article!
Anonymous
Fri Mar 16 2012 17:33
"ficials including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker have expressed their shock and have promised to launch investigations..."

You mean the following Eric Holder?

"Although many Muslim and liberal groups complained about recent congressional hearings on homegrown Islamic radicalism, American-born Muslims are behind a growing number of terror plots -- a trend that Attorney General Eric Holder has said keeps him "up at night."

Anonymous
Fri Mar 16 2012 17:31
"The other is the issue of profiling Muslim Americans simply because they are Muslim. Practicing Islam makes you no more likely to be a threat than someone who practices any other religion."

Really?

Were the following people Muslims or Buddhist monks?

Student Network or Terror Factory?

The MSA bills itself as a resource and support group, a place where Muslim students can network and help grow the association.

Terrorism expert Patrick Poole, however, told CBN News his investigation of the organization shows it's being used for another purpose.

"The Muslim Students Association has been a virtual terror factory," said Poole. "Time after time after time again, we see these terrorists -- and not just fringe members: these are MSA leaders, MSA presidents, MSA national presidents -- who've been implicated, charged and convicted in terrorist plots."

The roll call includes Anwar al-Awlaki, the al Qaeda cleric linked to terror plots from Fort Hood to Times Square and beyond.

Awlaki, now a target for assasination by the U.S. government, was president of the MSA at Colorado State University in the mid-1990s.

Then there is Ramy Zamzam. Before his conviction in Pakistan last year for attempting to join the Taliban and kill American troops, Zamzam was president of the MSA's Washington, D.C., council.

Omar Hammami, a leader of the al-Shabaab terrorist group in Somalia, is another MSA alum. He was once president of the group's chapter at the University of South Alabama.

And the list goes on.

Abdurahman Alamoudi, who was national president of the MSA during the 1980s, was al Qaeda's top fundraiser in America and is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence.

Anonymous
Fri Mar 16 2012 17:21
"According to the Huffington Post..."

Using the Huffington Post as an objective source on any security (police, FBI, CIA, Defense Department) entity is like using Al Jazeera as an objective source for information on Israel.

Anonymous
Fri Mar 16 2012 17:08
"It has been 11 years since a self-proclaimed Muslim committed a major terrorist attack on American soil."

Yes but there have been dozens of major attacks outside of America since 9/11 and something like a dozen intended major attacks were prevented by federal and state agencies. Seems to me the latter is reason enough for the NYPD to do what they have been doing.

Of course, I suppose, they could be monitoring Buddhist monks instead.





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