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NYPD’s Profiling of Muslims—and Why It Hurts All of Us


It’s been a bad few weeks for the New York Police Department.    The NYPD’s already tense relationship with the Muslim community continues to get worse and worse.   First there was the episode of the police Commissioner Raymond Kelly appearing in the viciously Islamophobic film Third Jihad.    This film was shown to NYPD police during their training sessions.

Then there was the report that NYPD was spying on Shi’i mosques in the NYC area.     Also targeted were the Palestinian community.  

Now comes another report that shows we are dealing with a pattern of institutional abuse, racism, and systematic Islamophobia.   Disturbing documents from the NYPD have been discovered by the Associated Press, which show that the NYPD spied on American citizens of Muslim background in multiple colleges and universities.


The report from the AP is called “Weekly MSA Report.”   MSA refers to Muslim Students Association, which is the nation-wide organization of Muslims, primarily undergraduate students 18-22 years old.    Almost all colleges and universities in America have groups of religious students, whether Baptist students, Catholic students, Jewish students, Buddhist students, or groups like Intervarsity and Campus Crusade for Christ.

AP’s reports a number of disturbing facts:
*The  NYPD has been spying on Muslim students, for the simple fact of being Muslims.     The individuals profiled had not committed a crime.  Their crime was simply being Muslim.

*The profiling also extended to professors at these universities.   
*The profiling at times had an ethnic component to it as well.  Some Somali professors were profiled, as if being Somali was somehow a pre-indication of guilt or crime.

*The profiling went on intensively inside NYC:  Muslims at Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Queens College, Baruch College were profiled.

*The profiling also extended far beyond and outside NYC:   Muslim students and faculty at University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, and Syracuse University were also profiled, among others.    In fact, the profiling even crossed state lines, extending into Pennsylvania and Connecticut, over a distance of hundreds of miles.

*The profiling was at least at times done by Muslim officers, one of them named as Mahood Ahmad.    In spite of his Muslim background, the officer seems to have been woefully unaware of the basics of Islam and Islam in America, including not being sure about the main Muslim leaders in America—including Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. 

*The profiling was done on a daily basis.

*The profiling went on to absurd levels, including following students on a rafting trip, and counting how many times the students prayed.    This last fact is particularly problematic, as it seems to indicate that in the opinion of the NYPD, there is a correlation between religious observance and extremism.  

*The profiling also happened on-line, including webpages, blogs, and emails.    
Some of the most absurd levels of profiling occur here.    At Rutgers, the police report mentions that the Muslim Students Association had posted about the “Day of Judgment.”     In what has to be the utmost manifestation of sheer stupidity and lack of basic understanding, the NYPD secret report states:  “Additional information regarding the topic or location is not available.”      Good to know that the NYPD (and the Rutgers students) are unaware of the location of the Day of Judgment.   

So what’s exactly disturbing about the above?
Oh, where to start?  Is it the illegal situation of both racial and religious profiling of people, who are after all, presumed to be innocent?     Is it the untold dollars NYPD has spent—in other words, our tax dollars—going off on crazy goose chases?

Perhaps more than anything else, it is this:  The FBI, NYPD, Homeland Security have asked for and need the assistance of the American Muslim population in combating the real threat of extremism that does exist among a marginal percentage of American Muslims.     To identify that threat, it is necessary to have clear and open lines of communication and a relationship based on mutual trust and concern for the wellbeing of all Americans, including Muslim Americans, while preserving the constitutional rights of all Americans, including Muslim Americans.     

How is the Muslim American community supposed to trust the police and FBI when we know that they are illegally profiling, spying, reading emails, and counting the prayers of Muslims as evidence of extremism?    In other words, the NYPD’s actions are actually making us far less likely to have a meaningful cooperation, which puts all of us in a more vulnerable position.


Tags: civil rights, commissioner, islamophobia, mosques, msa, muslim student association, muslims, nypd, police department, profiling, racial profiling, raymond kelly, spying


  1. My initial instinct was to voice my agreement, or at least my concern over what initially appears as a violation of the constitution at worst, or witch hunting at best.

    That is until I realized you forgot to mention (by design or error) that the student organization, you mentioed the Muslim Students Association,  has three student leaders who have been tied to Al Quaida or terrorist activity in the US, and have been placed on trial, convicted, or are wanted.  Their names and faces were on CBS Morning show today.  They are rather dangerous “students”.

    How does that set them apart, make the MSA diferent from   “...  groups of religious students, whether Baptist students, Catholic students, Jewish students, Buddhist students, or groups like Intervarsity and Campus Crusade for Christ.”  ?

    I’m sure your failing to mention this was simply an oversight, I’m happy I can provide you with this detail since you want to be objective and forthright in all your reporting, no doubt. 

  2. A couple of points of clarification:  First, here is some more evidence of the fact that interaction and a relationship based on trust with the Muslim community has in fact led to preventing many acts of terror:    We see that the Muslim community’s own vigilance against extremists is one of greatest protections for all of us, Muslim or not. 

    Second, I have been clear that there is a real danger of extremism from a radical sub-minority within the Muslim community.  The issue is how to manage it, and how to do so in a way that neither alienates the community nor transgresses against the law of this country.    Of course one can find many situations that individuals from a range of backgrounds (evangelical Christians, African Americans, atheists, etc.) have broken laws and committed hideous acts of violence.  The question is what we do as a follow up, and whether we resort to racial/ethnic/religious profiling of that entire community.   

    do we profile all Christian Identity followers because of Eric Rudolph?  Do we profile all NRA-loving Republicans because of Timothy McVeigh?  You see the point.  One of the basics of our legal code is that a person is judged for their own actions, not all the actions that people of their race/ethnicity/religious tradition perform. 
    Then again, Bart,  From our previous interactions, it is pretty clear to me that your dislike of all religion (including Islam) does not permit for a civilized and intelligent exchange, so this is more for other people’s benefit.    grin


  3. I’m sitting here, incredulous, that you can type that crap with a straight face.

    Three student organization leaders from the Muslim student assoc guilty of terrorist acts, and you roll out McVeigh and rudolph?? No, seriously, ar you that transparet, that vapid, that much in denial?

    You didn’t say why you nevermentioned the three student terrorists.  You didn’t claim to have forgotten, or not known.  You itentinaly omitted it.  nyone reading this can sere tat fr themselve.  Why,  If not for your intentional subtrifuge and dishonesty?

    If three Xtian or Jewish student org. leaders were guilty of plotting the murde of americans you’d have a legitimate cause.  But you are going to ignore the connection betwen the Muslim Student Assoc. and terrorism…decry profiling as though there was no connetion… and then call me prejudice?

    You’re worse than the Muslm apologist I tagged you as.  You sir, are a deceiver, a denier, a fraud and a liar.  Wouldn’t at all be surprised if you supprt their terrorist actions and anti-American bent. You disgust me.

  4. The Presidents of many of these universities are starting to release statements on the NYPD abuses.  Here is the statement from the Yale President:
    To the Yale Community,

    The Associated Press has released a document showing that the New York Police Department monitored the web sites of many Muslim Students Associations, including our association here at Yale, and may have conducted improper surveillance of Muslim students at other institutions. I am writing to state, in the strongest possible terms, that 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. Also I want to make sure our community knows that the Yale Police Department has not participated in any monitoring by the NYPD and was entirely unaware of NYPD activities until the recent news reports.

    The Yale Muslim Students Association has been an important source of support for Yale students during a period when Muslims and Islam itself have too often been the target of thoughtless stereotyping, misplaced fear, and bigotry.  Now, in the wake of these disturbing news reports, I want to assure the members of the Yale Muslim Students Association that they can count on the full support of Yale University.

    Richard C. Levin

  5. and here is the statement from University of Buffalo condemning the actions of NYPD: “UB does not conduct this kind of surveillance and if asked, UB would not voluntarily cooperate with such a request,” the university said in a written statement. “As a public university, UB strongly supports the values of freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of religion, and a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

  6. And the statement from Rutgers University: 
    Statement by Rutgers University
    February 20, 2012
    Rutgers University takes great pride in the diversity of our student body, and we work hard to make sure that all students feel safe and welcome at all of our campuses. Rutgers University had no knowledge at the time that the New York Police Department (NYPD) was conducting surveillance near the university’s campuses in Newark and New Brunswick. Once the university learned that these activities had occurred, Rutgers was informed that the NYPD’s investigation was not within the university’s legal jurisdiction. The university was not aware that members of the Rutgers community were allegedly targets of this investigation.

    Given the concerns raised by members of the Rutgers community, the university would welcome a thorough investigation by the NYPD of its own activities.

    While all the facts are not known and the reasons for actions of the NYPD have not been shared with the university, it is important to state that Rutgers does not condone the surveillance of any members of our community based on their race, gender, ethnicity or religious beliefs.

  7. Obfiscate, ignore. it doesn’t change the facts. 

    One just has to wonder: 
    if three terrroists all are connected to a student organization, all having been predominent within that organization, aren’t sufficient to cause justifiable concern among state or federal authorities, and all Americans, then how many terorist acts coming from said organization would be adeqaute to justify indepth investigation and warrant mention in a self serving radical islamic apologetic blog?

    Would 5 be enough?  8?  12?  No, even then the deniers of reason and reality and the supporters of Islamic extremist fervor at any price will blindly cry foul.


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