The New York Police Department claims it has ended its mass surveillance of Muslims in New York State. Is this true? Have they disbanded all their illegal activities or is it just an attempt to deflect criticism from civil rights groups that have exposed NYPD wrongdoing causing embarrassment to the US abroad where US officials never tire of lecturing others about human rights?
New York, Crescent-online
Wednesday April 16, 2014, 12:03 DST
After launching a mass surveillance program against Muslims in New York and New Jersey, the New York Police Department (NYPD) announced yesterday it was disbanding the controversial and heavily criticized unit.
Under the program, undercover police officers were sent to spy on Muslims in their places of worship (mosques), their work place whether in offices, restaurants or grocery stores as well as their homes. Even children were targeted in schools, at times with the connivance of school staff.
This was racial and religious profiling of the worst kind reminiscent of the Nazi tactics against Jews in Germany before the Second World War. In the post-911 environment, every Muslims was, and perhaps still is, considered a terrorist or a potential terrorist.
The only criterion used was the religion of a person, in this case Islam. The environment of hatred created against Muslims in the aftermath of 911 has led to attacks on mosques, Muslim businesses as well as individual Muslims. Sometimes, even Sikhs have been targeted because they were mistaken for Muslims.
Ignorance is rampant in the US. An average American would be hard pressed to tell the difference between a Sikh (with a long beard and a turban) and a Muslim with an equally long or even short beard wearing a kufi (cap). Islamophobes in America have thrived on hatred and ignorance to target Muslims.
Since 911, Islamophobia has been a thriving industry in which Muslims have been presented as the “Other” even if they went about their daily work in a routine manner. Leading this campaign have been well-known Zionists that take special pleasure in demonizing Muslims because they are critical of Zionist policies against the Palestinians in Occupied Palestine.
In announcing the termination of this Islamophobic policy, the New York Police said that the Zone Assessment Unit, previously known as the Demographics Unit, had been largely inactive since January and that personnel had now been reassigned to other duties within police intelligence.
“Understanding certain local demographics can be a useful factor when assessing information regarding potential threats coming to the attention of the New York City Police Department,” it said in a statement.
“It has been determined that much of the same information previously gathered by the Zone Assessment Unit may be obtained through direct outreach by the NYPD to the communities concerned,” it added.
Civil liberty groups welcomed the move, but called on New York authorities to address the damage caused by unjustified spying based solely on religion.
It is important to note that not one case of terrorism was found since the program was launched in 2002. Muslim groups protested the Police policy with little effect. Even when Muslims supported Bill de Blasio’s candidacy for mayor of New York making him the first Democratic mayor in 20 years, he refused to disband the unit.
A law suit against the NYPD surveillance program launched by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was rejected. The court said the police had the right to investigate potential terrorist threats. What the court did not take into account was the fact that in nearly 12 years of mass surveillance of innocent Muslims, the police found not one lead or clue to prove Muslims were involved in acts of terrorism.
The program was not only completely ineffective and costly but was based on religious and racial profiling.
Civil liberty groups said the decision to disband was an important first step but warned against its activities being transferred to other police units.
“We hope that the Demographics Unit's discriminatory activities will not be carried out by other parts of the NYPD,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Muslim organisations also welcomed disbanding of the Demographic unit but have called for disbanding all aspects of the bias-based policing that has stigmatized Muslim communities not only in New York but across the country and caused them great harm.
Given the deliberate hatred generated against law-abiding Muslim citizens, it would be unrealistic to assume that the police would disband all aspects of their discriminatory program.
It appears the announcement was made to assuage rising concern among civil rights groups whose publicity has embarrassed the US globally. American officials never tire of lecturing other countries about human rights yet within the US, mass surveillance based on religion and looks has been a standard practice for more than a decade.
Muslims in the US should not think their troubles are over or that the police have stopped their nefarious activities. Like a scorpion cannot help but sting, the police habitually suspect people and if Muslims are blamed for all the ills in the world, then Muslims in the US would not be exempt from this policy that also has the support of well known and well-healed Islamophobes that pursue an agenda on behalf of the racist Zionist entity in Occupied Palestine.