Author Asra Q. Nomani: The NYPD Should Spy on Muslims


As the fallout over NYPD’s Muslim spying scheme continues — even prompting Chicago’s top cop to pledge against blanket monitoring of Islamic communities — some have taken a drastically different approach to the issue.

While Mayor Mike Bloomberg has defended the NYPD’s controversial practices, Asra Q. Nomani, author of Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam and co-director of the Pearl Project, has outright promoted the department’s techniques in a new Daily Beast op-ed.

Nomani basically argues that Muslims don’t do enough to police themselves — and that she is “relieved that our country’s largest police agency was monitoring our Muslim community as closely as the reports indicate.”

Nomani, a Muslim who is also well known for women’s rights activism at her Virginia mosque, writes:

Last year, I argued: profile me. This year, I say, too: monitor me. Indeed, just as we need to track the Colombian community for drug trafficking and the Ku Klux Klan for white extremists, I believe we should monitor the Muslim community because we sure don’t police ourselves enough.

Public spaces, especially those protected by religious sensibilities, are a natural meeting spot for criminals. If the NYPD was tracking shopping malls or pizza shops where criminal activity is being planned, we wouldn’t complain. Because the places are religious institutions, we’re protesting. Alas, criminals use our religious protections as a weapon against us.”

She goes on, explaining:

“The last 15 years of battling extremism in our Muslim community has revealed one truth: mosques and Muslim organizations are institutional spaces used by Muslims intent on criminal activity, not much unlike the pews of a Catholic church or a Godfather’s Pizza might be the secret meeting spot for members of the Italian mafia.”

Now, we’re not going to deny that there have been mosques and Muslim organizations linked to criminal activity — just as we’re not going to deny that there have been Colombian restaurants linked to drug trafficking or white social clubs associated with racist groups like the KKK.

But the issue at hand is whether it’s right — and legal — to collect data and IDs on individuals based upon their demographic.

Aside from being based on the shakiest of premises, making the case that spying on Muslims is OK — and even constitutes “good police work” — because other groups should be spied on doesn’t address this key question.

What needs to be ironed out — by every stakeholder in this debate — is whether these techniques violate civil rights.

Conflating constitutional discussion with appeals to common practice just doesn’t achieve this.

Runnin’ Scared has reached out to Nomani to ask about her op-ed. We’ll update if we hear back.

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.

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