In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful
Let us leave aside, for the moment, the fact that spying on a community that is innocent of any criminal activity is wrong. Let us leave aside, for the moment, that assuming an entire community is guilty for the crimes of a tiny element in its midst is patently un-American. Let us leave aside, for the moment, that such spying operations are counterproductive to the fight against terrorism in this country.
At the end of the day, what was the result of all this spying activity? Nothing at all. According to an AP report:
In mid-2007, the NYPD's secretive Demographics Unit fanned out across Newark, photographing every mosque and eavesdropping in Muslim businesses.
Police have built databases showing where Muslims live, where they buy groceries, what Internet cafes they use and where they watch sports. Dozens of mosques and student groups have been infiltrated, and police have built detailed profiles of local ethnic groups, from Moroccans to Egyptians to Albanians.
But the NYPD's intelligence unit also operates far outside its jurisdiction and has worked to keep tabs on Muslims across the Northeast. The department has cataloged Muslim communities in Long Island, conducted undercover operations in New Brunswick, N.J., and has turned often innocuous Internet postings by Muslim student groups into police files.
And after all this data was compiled, a report was issued - obtained by AP - that showed no evidence of terrorism or any criminal wrongdoing.
Their assumptions about the community - since the terrorists that attacked us on September 11 were Muslims, innocent American Muslim communities must have been complicit, or must have known something - were completely erroneous. Despite the contention of some, the facts continue to show that American Muslims are loyal, patriotic citizens committed to the safety and security of this country.
Although the vast majority of Muslim-Americans reject extremist ideology and violence, a small number of Muslim-Americans have radicalized since 9/11. In the eight years following 9/11, according to our project’s count, 139 Muslim-Americans committed acts of terrorism-related violence or were prosecuted for terrorism-related offenses that involve some element of violence. This level of approximately 17 individuals per year is small compared to other violent crime in America, but not insignificant. Homegrown terrorism is a serious, but limited, problem.
The reasons for this, according to the study, are: (1) public and private denunciations of violence, (2) robust self-policing practices and community building, (3) heightened political engagement, and (4) an assertive Muslim-American identity which, the study has shown, has served to undercut the radical message that American values and practices are hostile to Islam.
Moreover, opinion polls have consistently shown American Muslims to overwhelmingly reject violence against innocent people, much more so than their Christian and Jewish compatriots. In a recent Gallup survey, respondents were asked if attacks on civilians by individuals or small groups is ever justified, 89% of Muslims said it is “never” justified. This is more than Protestants (71%), Catholics (71%), Jews (75%), Mormons (79%), or those without any religious affiliation (76%). Asked if it was “sometimes” justified, Muslims were the least in saying yes. A Pew survey has reiterated these findings, with 81% of American Muslims believing that suicide terrorism is never justified.
In fact, as the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security showed in its recently released study, a significant number of terrorist plots have been foiled by Muslims themselves:
Muslim-Americans continued to be a source of initial tips alerting law-enforcement authorities to violent terrorist plots. Muslim-Americans turned in 2 of 14 individuals in 2011 whose initial tip could be identified, bringing the total to 52 of 140 since 9/11.
Now, I am under no illusion of the daunting task of preventing another terrorist attack placed before law enforcement officials all across this country. I think I can safely speak for all Americans when I say that I expect nothing less than a relentless effort on the part of law enforcement to root out every single potential terrorist or terrorist plot.
But spying on every single peaceful, law-abiding Muslim citizen sends a chilling message of deep suspicion and mistrust, as well as frank betrayal, when what is needed is even stronger collaboration and cooperation. If law enforcement officials go back to working with the American Muslim community rather than spying on them, they will find a willing partner and strong ally in the fight against terrorism.