Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Equating Religion with Terrorism

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Equating Religion with Terrorism

Article excerpt

As protests against New York Police Department (NYPD) surveillance of Muslim communities continue, the debate about religious profiling heats up in New York City. Some see it as neccesary for the nation's security, but others consider it a violation of civil rights.

Emad Fadel, in his early thirties, is an imam and visiting scholar from Egypt. He moved to the U.S. with his wife and son about a year ago, and lives near the Al Rahman mosque in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, where many of the borough's Muslims live. Because he is employed by a Muslim school and mosque, Fadel suspects that even his personal conversations are monitored. "Not just [phone] calls," he told the Washinghton Report after Friday prayers. "Skype or Yahoo-I feel that everything is recorded. Yes, I know it!"

Fadel learned only recently that Al Rahman mosque is one of 18 Muslim centers cited in a leaked NYPD document this past January. While he worries about his personal life being monitored, he said, he understands the NYPD's need to ensure national security.

"I can understand that the police have fears. Like in any other country, they want to see what is going on," remarked the young imam.

Many at the mosque share Fadel's views. Student Mohamed Mousa, 22, said he has mixed feelings."Do I think it's moral? No. But there's not much we can do about it but go on with our daily lives," he concluded. "As long as you're not doing anything wrong, you've got nothing to worry about."

But Zead Ramadan, president of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), warns that allowing authorities to profile people on the basis of their religion is dangerous. "Did you know that praying five times a day elevates your security risk, according to NYPD surveillance?" he asked. "I think once [Muslims] find out those things they realize, 'Well, wait a minute, but I'm a Muslim, those are requirements of my faith.' Your religion has become equated to terrorism," Ramadan explained, "and that's a bad thing."

But NYPD policies have received support from some local politicians. In 2010 State Sen. Martin Golden, who represents the Bay Ridge neighborhood, co-sponsored a policy that would allow the NYPD to search anybody who fit a potential terrorist profile based on national origin, including mainly Muslim-majority countries. The bill ultimately failed, however. …

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