Following the events of 9/11, some invasive laws were enacted so that the government could keep a closer eye on its citizens and many civil rights were circumvented in the name of “stopping terrorism.” No one saw this attack on privacy and freedom hit home more than those in the Muslim community. It was, after all, “their people” who caused all the problems, right? So why shouldn’t they be the subject of scrutiny and spying activities? It’s taken more than 10 years, but Muslim citizens of the United States are finally fighting back against these unjust laws, starting with a lawsuit against the New York Police Department.
The NYPD has been spying on Muslim groups ever since 2001. Investigations into the police’s activities revealed a number of things going on that, pre-9/11, would have raised an outcry. Some of their spying tactics consist of such things as conducting regular surveillance on Muslim neighborhoods, keeping records of Muslims’ daily activities, assembling files on mosques, infiltrating student Muslim groups, making lists of license plate numbers of those who attend mosque and video-taping people as they attend their religious services.
The particular laws that the NYPD are using to justify their spying are widely regarded as a violation of the basic principles of freedom and have gained criticism from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Many believe that the freedom for police to spy moves the US one more step toward a police surveillance state in which people will have no true anonymity anymore. Furthermore, the laws are being used to specifically target Muslims, which means that police are conducting illegal profiling as well as singling out a people based on their religion and national origins.
NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly has responded to the lawsuit by stating that these types of spying activities are necessary for the security of the country and may eventually help to prevent another terrorist attack like 9/11. It is understandable to some degree, considering that events of that day hit close to home with those who live in New York. But directly infringing on U.S. citizens’ rights is the wrong way to achieve these ends.
Blanket surveillance of particular groups creates fear. Those people are not longer allowed to be themselves, free to say what’s on their mind. If they say or do the wrong thing, they may be targeted even further. Being able to speak freely is a fundamental right of US citizens, and these laws target that right and effectively suppress the voice of an entire segment of our society. Whatever “good intentions” may be behind the laws, they are not American in the least. Targeting Muslims in New York or Hispanics near the Mexican border amounts to the same thing - prejudice, discrimination and the breakdown of freedom in America.