A counterterrorism project in Los Angeles that would collect information about Muslim neighborhoods is drawing outrage from Islamic groups and civil libertarians who say it unjustly singles out residents based on faith and could lead to unconstitutional police tactics.
The groups complain that the Los Angeles Police Department's "community mapping" project, which aims to prevent radicalization and homegrown terrorism, unfairly brings suspicion on Muslims.
They say it undermines trust established between Muslims and police since the 9/11 attacks and is reminiscent of how Nazis identified Jews during the Holocaust.
"This is anti-Semitism reborn as Islamophobia," said Shakeel Syed, director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. "We will fiercely resist this."
The mapping project would collect information about specific neighborhoods but not individuals, according to Michael Downing, the LAPD's counterterrorism chief.
Downing said the aim is to study where enclaves of Muslims live so that police can study their culture, history, language and socioeconomic status to gain an understanding of their communities.
If a community is isolated, it may be determined that it is susceptible to extremist ideology, Downing said. In such cases, he said, police could then go into those communities and try to head off potential problems by offering people access to government and social services.
"Our goal is to try to be a catalyst to integrate the communities into the greater society," Downing said.
How much information would be collected and how it will be used remained unclear to groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which joined Muslim groups in writing a harshly worded letter Thursday to the LAPD.
"Singling out individuals for investigation, surveillance, and data-gathering based on their religion constitutes religious profiling," the letter said. "In addition to constitutional concerns ... religious profiling engenders fear and distrust."
Darrel Stephens, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said large police departments routinely use community mapping to understand crime trends.
Muslim leaders say mapping based on a community's faith and ethnicity is different from mapping based on crime. "In the Muslim community, there hasn't been terrorism," said Hussam Ayloush of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Ayloush said the police department's job is to enforce laws. "Police should not be in the business of analyzing political views and religious views," he said. "It's really dangerous. This is a slippery slope."
The ACLU agreed. "Religious profiling is not a legitimate tool of law enforcement," said Ranjana Natarajan an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California.
Any aspect of racial profiling or singling out Muslim Americans for scrutiny in the plan would be a violation of the Department of Justice's 2003 Guidelines on Racial Profiling, and would drastically undermine any trust between law enforcement and local communities.".
Looks like MPAC (and probably other muslim organizations) will have no objections if LAPD had singled out Hindus, Buddhists, and Armenians, Greeks, and Jews . I wonder if any muslim organization would have cared to make any objection at all or wasted any time in writing any articles at all.
I am against the idea of "mapping" out the Muslim community in LA by the local law enforcement until, lets say, they map out the extremist fundementalist Christiam enclaves there that perpetuate islamiphobia and tear down other religions in a quest to improve the membership of their own. This reminds me of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII or the treament of the Jews by Germany. What does LA want us to do, wear Crescents on our clothing!?
May Allah SWT protect us all!
The Muslim Public Affairs Council today held a press conference following media reports of the Los Angeles Police Department's announcement of a proposed program to "map" the Southern California Muslim American community.
"Our position has always been and will continue to be that we are against any and all forms of racial profiling," said MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati. "MPAC has not endorsed anything because there is nothing to endorse. MPAC's Board of Directors have not seen an actual proposal, which we would need to do before we make any judgment or pronouncements about LAPD's plans."
Any aspect of racial profiling or singling out Muslim Americans for scrutiny in the plan would be a violation of the Department of Justice's 2003 Guidelines on Racial Profiling, and would drastically undermine any trust between law enforcement and local communities.
Al-Marayati, along with other Muslim leaders in Southern California, will be attending a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 15 called by LAPD Deputy Chief Mike Downing to learn more about the proposal and discuss its merits and implications.
"All the concerns -- engagement concerns, civil rights concerns, dialogue concerns -- will all be addressed there, and then we will have a clearer idea about what this is all about," Al-Marayati said. "We are in dialogue and consultation with everyone involved in this issue -- which includes civil rights groups, Muslim American organizations and law enforcement -- about where to proceed with the dialogue and we will go to the meeting in that spirit of dialogue."
For info, visit www.mpac.org