NYU Reacts: NYPD surveillance of Muslim communities

April 17, 2014

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Controversy broke out in 2012 when it was revealed that an NYPD unit had been spying on Muslim communities and student groups. It was announced on April 15 that this unit has been disbanded.

LS freshman Meyhad Mozaffa, who is Muslim, said this kind of discriminatory spying occurs because of prejudice against the Muslim community.

“[The spying] came at a time when we are finally 10 years away from the fatal and devastating attacks on 9/11, but we still have this Islamophobia in the community today,” Mozaffa said. “People everywhere … are profiling Muslims and Middle Easterners for being terrorists and always being a danger for the community.”

CAS freshman Afraz Khan, another Muslim student, said he has come to expect this kind of behavior directed toward Muslims.

“Over the years I’ve almost become slightly desensitized to these types of issues that come up,” Khan said. “As a Muslim in the United States who has experienced firsthand discrimination and mistreatment due to my religion, I’ve come to terms in a lot of ways with the fact that these types of challenges will continue to persist for us.”

Khan also said this kind of discrimination comes from a lack of knowledge and understanding of varying religious beliefs. As a member of the executive board for Shuruq, an Islamic cultural awareness month at NYU, Khan helps plan events to educate people and encourage religious acceptance. Khan said he has noticed less discrimination recently and the NYPD’s move to disband its surveillance unit is a positive step.

“When any sort of discrimination against Muslims does occur, it still hurts just as much,” Khan said. “Complete eradication of Islamophobia and those sorts of beliefs seems like a distant goal, but I think the disbanding of this unit signifies a very important step toward achieving this goal as well as establishing a common ground of understanding of our belief system.”

CAS junior Natalie McCauley said she is in support of the unit being disbanded.

“Police targeting a religious group because of the action of a few radicals who happened to consider themselves Muslims is unjust,” McCauley said. “Spying on people in general creates an atmosphere of fear, and targeting Muslims was a negative message to the people of New York.”

“A police force has to protect, not intimidate or discriminate against, its citizens,” she added.

Despite feeling like there is heavy discrimination against the Muslim community, Mozaffa said he hopes that in the future, Americans can learn to differentiate between the Muslim community and its association with terrorist attacks.

“Hearing about the events that have happened in the past is just very saddening and hopefully in the next years, we as Americans can understand that not every Muslim is a terrorist and not every terrorist is a Muslim,” Mozaffa said.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, April 17 print edition. Larson Binzer is a deputy news editor. Email her at lbinzer@nyunews.com.

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