NYPD spying ignites discrimination and inequality for Muslims

By Rana Khatib, Communications Intern

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Muslims continue to be the target of hate, fear, and racism causing them to become victims of acts of blatant discrimination and inequality. Muslims have encountered spying, being singled out, and have been deprived their freedom of speech. What makes these matters even more pressing goes beyond racism on a social level, it is the institutionalization of such sentiments by government and law enforcement that creates serious concerns.

The NYPD has been monitoring Muslim students and violating their civil rights. An Associated Press article reported that the NYPD monitoring started in 2006, and began with tabs on Muslim students’ blogs, websites, and emails, but this worsened. The surveillance continued by following Muslim students on trips and other daily activities.

In 2008, it was reported that an undercover agent attended a whitewater rafting trip at the City College of New York where a group of MSA (Muslim Students Association) students participated. He recorded the names of all 18 attendees who were the officers of the organization. This undercover agent also recorded how many times they each prayed.

The action of spying on Muslims causes students to act differently in public, even when they’re innocent. Jawad Rasul, one of the Muslim students who attended the trip, expressed that he cannot enjoy freedom like he did before this situation. “It forces me to look around wherever I am now,” Rasul says.

Rasul believes spying on Muslims to find homegrown terrorism is ludicrous and that it “really destroys the trust that any youth might have developed with the government.” Spying not only affects Muslims personally, but the government that implements spying also faces hardship.

Attorney Mary Catherine Roper from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, comments, “They should be spending their time looking at the more specific behaviors that ought to draw their attention and make them investigate a person or a group.” She goes on to say that congregating to pray and attending rafting trips should not be a foundation of suspicion.

Discrimination is yet another form of racism faced by many Muslims, which causes a broader attack on Muslims even beyond college MSAs. Bullying has been known to be one of the biggest problems within high schools; it was reported that incidents occur in many different states. A few examples are Muslims girls being chased and having raw pork thrust in their faces in Minnesota, a Muslim boy in Texas that was harshly beaten and thrown into a dumpster, and a student who faced bullying from junior high to high school in New York who ended up resigning from school.

Due to gross inaccuracies and generalizations, youth are often exposed to lacking education when it comes to Islam and Muslims. Parents and educators alike are sometimes the perpetrators of this type of Islamophobic rhetoric used to teach young people about Muslim communities. Nea.org reports, “A guest speaker at another school handed out literature demonizing Islam in a social sciences class.” Kids are brought up learning to adapt ways of thinking towards a certain race or religion that stem from stereotypes and misinformation.

Muslims face discrimination in many ways including verbal, mental, and physical abuse. Some grow up facing these types of biases and some face it later on in life. It also makes some Muslims, mostly students, wary of those around them. It may make them feel like staying in their own confines.

This causes a problem for the Muslim community. It discourages Muslims from reaching out and correcting others’ negative perceptions. Muslims become extremely cautious when defending the truth about their religion. The matter of discriminating against Muslims extends far beyond what is publicly announced- many instances go unreported, which paves the way for more acts of discrimination.

While many Muslims face racism, the ones who stand up for their rights and defend themselves when they’re attacked are suppressed.

A primary example of this is when Israeli Ambassador, Michael Oren gave a speech at UC Irvine in February of 2010 about Israel and Palestine. During that speech, students who stood up and spoke against what they believed to be Palestine were removed from the room by police. After the speech, the school expelled students from the MSA group.

This is a valid example to show the infringement of freedom of speech upon Muslims. Oren gave a speech that clearly upset Muslim students, and the fact that they were punished for disagreeing with him, highlights the discrepancy between free speech values and their enforcement.

The MSA spend their time engaging in lectures and discussions about Islam such as charity, respect, and peace. They collaborate with other groups in their school to fulfill those values by organizing service trips and volunteer opportunities.

UMMA (University Muslim Medical Association) is located in south Los Angeles and is a clinic that has treated thousands of patients. The word ‘umma’ is Arabic for ‘community’ and is based on the basic principle of social justice and the act of charity. The UMMA clinic originated from the MSA at UCLA and Charles Drew University and is now a widely known and respected clinic in Los Angeles. The fact that such student organizations which serve and contribute to the larger community is unacceptable.

Racism remains prevalent in our American society and poses a threat to our values of equality, trust, and freedom of speech. It’s a constant cycle that denies civil liberties for all Americans and needs to be addressed now more than ever.

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