The Mayor and His Myopia

by Mohammad Ali Naquvi

In response to the recent boycott of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s annual inter-faith breakfast this morning by over a dozen NYC Muslim leaders, the Mayor reasserted his support for the NYPD/CIA secret spying program by responding with the following statement:

 

“If you want to look for cases of measles, you’ll find a lot more of them among young people,” he said, according to an Associated Press account. “That’s not targeting young people to go see whether they have measles or not.”

 

It’s thoughtful of the Mayor to use an analogy, so that the rest of us can try to comprehend the wisdom of an illegal spying program on everyday Muslims.  I remember when I was studying for the SAT in high school, my course review teacher explained a simple test to see if an analogy works. You need to substitute the pairs of words into the same sentence, he told us.  So in this case, the pairs would be:

 

cases of measles : young people :: terrorists : Muslims

 

Since the Mayor has already provided us with a sentence, let’s just substitute in the second pair of words to see the brilliance of the analogy:

 

“If you want to look for [terrorists], you’ll find a lot more of them among [Muslims],” he said, according to an Associated Press account. “That’s not targeting [Muslims] to go see whether they [are terrorists] or not.”

In the first part of the sentence, the Mayor directly states that one would find more terrorists among the Muslim population than any other group in America.  You’d think someone getting excited over the chance to be involved in the high stakes arena of CIA intelligence might want to look at the records from another intelligence agency, you know the one that is responsible for domestic intelligence in the first place?  FBI records show that from 1980-2005, only 6% of terrorist attacks on American soil were committed by Muslims or Muslim groups [Source: FBI — Terrorism 2002/2005].  See the pie chart below for the full distribution.  And I do recall that lack of legally permissible collaboration between intelligence agencies is what allowed 9/11 to happen in the first place.

 

Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Soil by Group, From 1980 to 2005, According to FBI Database

 

Let’s take a look at the second part of the sentence.  Here, the Mayor defends the decision and attempts to negate the accusations of religious and racial profiling by saying the probe was not “targeting” Muslims.  But if only 6% of terrorist attacks in a 25-year period were carried out by Muslims, then why exactly is the NYPD infiltrating this community?  In fact, according to a report by the Department of Justice, this is the exact definition of racial and religious profiling, i.e.  “Any police-initiated action that relies on the race, ethnicity, or national origin rather than the behavior of an individual or information that leads the police to a particular individual who has been identified as being, or having been, engaged in criminal activity.” [Source: Racial Profiling — DOJ]

 

It is sad that the fallacy of racial profiling as an effective technique to prevent criminal activity still guides the policies of our law enforcement agencies.  A study of New York’s “stop and frisk” campaign in the late 1990s convincingly shows how racial profiling backfired and created great mistrust between police and minority communities in the city.  Is this not the predictable result of unjustly violating someone’s freedom, dignity and human rights?  Rather, it is crucially important that the training of our law enforcement focus on behavior profiling, which teaches behavior pattern recognition.  The study shows that statistically when police officers are not distracted by race, they are actually more accurate at picking out would-be perpetrators. [Source: Why racial profiling doesn't work - Salon.com]

 

Furthermore, in his testimony before Congress, University of Toledo law professor David Harris articulated the fact that although statistics shows that drug use is equal among blacks and whites, racial profiling leads to more traffic stops and subsequent drug arrests of blacks, creating the false notion that blacks commit more drug crimes.  This results in skewed arrest statistics and leads to a self-fulfilling prophesy, where blacks continue to be arrested in greater numbers for drug crimes. [Source: see Chapter on Critique of the "Rational Discrimination" Basis for Racial Profiling: Circular Reasoning]  And with the continued targeting of Muslim communities and the use of agent provocateurs to create terror threats out of thin air, is there any doubt that such profiling will tilt the arrests of terror suspects towards Muslims?  Unfortunately, this is precisely what some in the intelligence community want.  But why?

 

Perhaps the real reason Mayor Bloomberg continues to use these illegal and despicable tactics is because the American public is overwhelmingly in support of such measures.  According to a national telephone survey by Rasmussen Reports in 2010, 60% of American adults say profiling is necessary in today’s society. [Source: 60% Say Profiling Necessary in Today's Society — Rasmussen Reports]  As such, the Mayor definitely expects no social repercussions but rather praise, which continues to mount from all directions.  As long as ignorant Americans continue to demand ‘evil’ have one face and religion, so they can go to bed at night not necessarily being safe, but simply feeling safe as innocent Muslims continue to be harassed, profiled, and put away, these discriminatory policies will continue to win political points.  This is all the more reason the American Muslim community and concerned citizens of conscience must continue to stand up to the Mayor on this issue.

 

Thankfully, 34 Members of Congress have recently called for a probe into the NYPD/CIA collaboration and surveillance program asking the Department of Justice to launch an investigation into the CIA’s relationship with the New York Police Department.  See here: 34 Congress members call for probe of NYPD-CIA spying on Muslims — The Washington Post To date, the DOJ has not responded to this request.  Let’s hope it is not that easy for a city mayor to get away with an illegal spy program with an intelligence agency that has no legal jurisdiction to perform domestic surveillance in the first place.

 

And Mr. Mayor, if you want to delve into the intelligence business, get some glasses for that myopia, do your homework and try not to be so obtuse.  Sorry to use an SAT word.

 

UPDATE 01.03.12:

Four Attacks in Queens on Muslim Targets With Homemade Firebombs — The New York Times

 

These attacks are a predictable result of the continuing demonization of the Muslim community by the Mayor and other leaders in our country. As long as illegal spying and the propagation of false notions like “most terrorists are Muslims” goes unchallenged, it will only get worse. If only our community and concerned Americans neighbors stood up against this dangerous rhetoric with a unified voice.

Mohammad Ali Naquvi is a lawyer, community activist and human rights advocate based in New York City.

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