“Don't like it ? Go back from whence you came. Don't come here and DEMAND! Why don't you try a little integration while you've got so much energy.” This was one person’s colorful comment on an article by Al Jazeera America regarding a recent ruling coming out of the U.S. District court in New Jersey, reflecting the bias in the minds of far too many when it comes to seeing American Muslims as the other. Unfortunately, this kind of bias was far too prevalent throughout Thursday’s ten page court ruling.
Last week, the first lawsuit against the NYPD’s Muslim surveillance program was dismissed in a federal court in New Jersey by Judge William Martini. Judge Martini went as far as to shift the blame for any harm done to New Jersey’s Muslim residents, not on the NYPD’s bias-based policing but on the Associated Press for bringing the story to light in the first place. The ruling sends a dangerous and unfortunate message; that all Muslim Americans are fair game to blanket suspicion and discriminatory policing, for no reason other than their faith. Judge Martini claims “The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself.” This mode of thinking is so problematic because it validates the voices of those who seek to sow seeds of fear and push an Islamophobic agenda, and plants ever deeper feelings of alienation and rejection among Muslim Americans. The lawsuit was filed in part by the Center for Constitutional Rights, which released a statement shortly after the ruling expressing exactly how many Muslim Americans now feel “In addition to willfully ignoring the harm...suffered from the NYPD’s illegal spying program, by upholding the NYPD’s blunderbuss Muslim surveillance practices, the court’s decision gives legal sanction to the targeted discrimination of Muslims anywhere and everywhere in this country, without limitation, for no other reason than their religion (the entire statement can be read here).”
However unfortunate this ruling may be, our community’s fight doesn’t end here. We still have other lawsuits challenging the NYPD’s discriminatory operations and we need to stay strong and organized to see the struggle through.