Islamophobia : Spying on Muslims
NYPD officer ‘converted’ to Islam in order to go undercover and spy on Brooklyn College students which led to the arrest of two women accused of ‘building a bomb and planning to wage jihad in New York’
- An NYPD officer pretended to be a Brooklyn College student at the Islamic Society in New York City, and taking the Muslim oath of faith, before befriending Muslim students to infiltrate the community.
- The woman, who went by the name of Mel, short for Melike, spent four years earning the trust of Islamic students at the college as part of an NYPD operation to spy on Muslims, according to NY’s daily weblog Gothamist.
- Mel immersed herself in the student community, attending Islamic education classes, social gatherings, and trips to museums and the aquarium.
- Since 9/11, the NYPD has engaged in widespread and systematic surveillance of Muslim communities in New York City and beyond. Its operations have been vast, invasive, and damaging to both civil liberties and public safety.The NYPD’s surveillance has sown significant distrust of law enforcement in the policed communities and has been largely ineffective in gathering useful intelligence information. So much so, in fact, that civil rights groups (including the Brennan Center) urged the New York city council to create an independent IG’s office to investigate the Department’s policies and practices and to make recommendations for reform.
- In the NYPD’s model of measuring threats, which have been criticized, young people were also a key target.’The government – often acting through informants – is actively involved in developing [terrorism plots], persuading and sometimes pressuring the target to participate, and providing the resources to carry it out,’ according to the 2014 Human Rights Watch report
Muslim Students feeling Skeptical and Paranoid
Brooklyn College students at the Islamic Society told Gothamist they feel skeptical and paranoid. There are Rutgers students and graduates whose futures are in jeopardy because they were placed under surveillance by the NYPD — operating outside of its jurisdiction — for no other reason than they practice Islam.
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Rutgers students had no connections to terrorist activities whatsoever. Their “wrongdoing” amounts to being members of the campus Muslim Student Associations in Newark and New Brunswick, which were infiltrated by undercover NYPD agents.
The injuries caused by the NYPD’s spying do not end with damaged career prospects. The emotional and psychological effects of surveillance can also be seen in the anxiety that the Rutgers plaintiffs express about discussing their religion or praying in public, since any behavior that identifies them as Muslim has been deemed grounds for suspicion.
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- Three Brooklyn College graduates who had been close to the undercover officer told Gothamist of the intimate ties she developed with Muslim students and her presence during some of the most private moments of their lives.
- New York attorney Gideon Orion Oliver explained to Gothamist how undercover detectives ‘develop really profound and predatory relationships with their targets,’ to create an intimate bond of trust between them.
‘In the back of all our minds, there’s always that suspicion, that either, you are a spy, or you think I’m one,’ a female Muslim student stressed on an interview.’We’re acting like criminals, even though we haven’t done anything,’ she said.
- Over 100 faculty members of the City University of New York have signed a petition calling on the school’s chancellor to oppose surveillance of Muslim students by undercover New York City police officers.”Such surveillance chills the atmosphere of free speech and open dialogue that educational institutions require, and it violates constitutional protections that require specific search warrants,” reads the petition, written in the form of a letter to CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken.
- Corey Robins, a political science professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, urged his fellow faculty members to sign the petition Friday.”Tolerating, actively or passively, undercover officers of the state on our campus, allowing them to spy on our students, to report back to the state what our students say, as they meet with their friends to share in their studies, swap their stories, figure out their faith, shoot the shit, or whatever it is that students do when they believe themselves to be among friends, is a betrayal. Of the worst sort,” he wrote in a blog post.