This week, American Muslim civil liberties groups released a new report documenting the devastating impact of the New York Police Department's extensive surveillance programs targeting American Muslims throughout the Northeast -- surveillance efforts that ultimately failed to generate a single lead over the course of six years: New Report: "Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying and its Impact on American Muslims."
Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying and Its Impact on American Muslims is a collection of voices from affected community members reflecting how the NYPD's spying and infiltration creates a pervasive climate of fear and suspicion that encroaches upon every aspect of their religious, political, and community lives.
From AALDEF's press release:
"This report provides a powerful rebuttal to the NYPD and its supporters' assertion that surveillance is harmless and victimless," said Diala Shamas, a Liman Fellow at the CLEAR project and one of the report's authors. "It is a first-of-its kind opportunity to hear directly from affected community members, many of whom would only speak with us on condition of strict anonymity."The report was prepared by the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition, and its partner organizations the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) project at Main Street Legal Services, Inc. of the CUNY School of Law, and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. You can download a PDF copy of the report from the AALDEF website.
"NYPD surveillance has impacted every facet of American Muslim life," said Nermeen Arastu, a volunteer attorney with AALDEF. "The program has stifled speech, communal life and religious practice and criminalized a broad segment of American Muslims. The isolationism that comes with being a "spied on" community means that American Muslims are getting a fundamentally inferior opportunity to exercise their constitutional rights."
The extensive, in-depth interviews indicate that fear of surveillance has resulted in a decline participation and level of involvement in religious activities, community and social activities, and Muslim student organizations. The findings document, among other things:
- Impacts on students on college campuses, including silencing their activism, alienating their student groups, and affecting their academic choices;
- Suppressing religious spaces, as mosque congregants become suspicious of one another, imams hesitate when advising their congregants, and individuals refrain from appearing overtly 'Muslim' to avoid triggering surveillance;
- Silencing speech and political activism - from engagement in public debates and protests, to friendly coffee-house banter;
- Damaging the NYPD's own relationship with American Muslims in New York City, breaching communities' much-needed relationship of trust with those who are tasked with protecting them.