Justice: Reforming the NYPD and Reforming our Slave Mentality
Commissioner Ray Kelly’s recent visit to the Jamaica Muslim Center was a gathering of mixed sentiments. Recent revelations of NYPD spying on the entire New York Muslim community, including over 250 mosques, Muslim student groups, and Muslim-owned businesses, has certainly created a very palpable level of friction between the Muslim community and the police department. Law abiding Muslim citizens, guilty of no crimes, have felt betrayed and wrongfully targeted and yet Commissioner Kelly has continuously defended the NYPD’s surveillance practices. That being said, it seemed rather peculiar for the man in charge of the NYPD to be making an appearance before members of the very community his police department spent years and valuable resources on spying. Even stranger was the fact that the Commissioner and this small group of Muslims hosting him seemed intent on sweeping the concerns of their community members under the rug, and wanted to promote a facade that all was well between the NYPD and the city’s Muslim population.
Naturally during the open mic question and answer session, many members of the community did voice their concerns regarding issues of surveillance, NYPD informants being planted in Muslim congregations, and concerns over a recent case of entrapment in which a young Bangladeshi man was lured by the FBI to commit criminal acts. Disappointingly, and yet predictably, Commissioner Kelly responded to many of these questions with very diplomatic “non-answers” which always ended in him unapologetically defending NYPD tactics used against the Muslim community, assuring questioners that such policies were for their own good.
Despite the Commissioner’s bizarre appearance and disappointing answers, the one part of this entire scenario that is the most puzzling is that this mosque was even hosting an event like this in the first place. The Jamaica Muslim Center was one of the religious centers targeted by the NYPD. They were monitoring this very center, and yet here were the board member’s literally singing the Commissioner’s praises and articulating their supposed love for him at the podium. In normal human interactions, you wouldn’t expect someone to be lavishly praising one who very recently wronged them without regret or apology. One could only feel pity towards these board members, who seemed to have deluded themselves into believing that if they threw enough rose petals at the Commissioner’s feet, that he would in turn view them as equal partners and maybe even treat them as friends. The thing is, the NYPD has proven to mosque leaders before that they’re very good at pretending to be partners and friends in front of the cameras, but in practice, Muslim community leaders who went out of their way to reach out to the NYPD to establish good relations were not spared from being spied on by the very same Police department. What good is this supposed friendship worth then, if in the end you will all still be treated as suspects and potential troublemakers all the same?
What we want to see is a better NYPD. An NYPD that is held accountable for its abuses of civil rights, of Muslims and all New Yorkers. An NYPD that truly treats the city’s Muslim citizens as equals, and yes, perhaps even as friends. But this won’t happen so long as the Commissioner continues to pretend there isn’t a problem. Especially not when small groups of mosque leaders feel that treating the Commissioner like an honored celebrity will somehow change the facts on the ground for them, and for all of New York City’s Muslims.