Red, White and Muslim

The Judge Dismisses the NYPD case.  Plaintiff Number 11 responds.

spying on muslims

dropcapFarhaj Hassan, a decorated Iraq war veteran, signed on to be plaintiff number 11 when he realized that the mosque he regularly went to was part of the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) list of “hot spots”. “MFI (Muslim Foundation Inc.) is home to two cops that pray there, one soldier and I think at one time a marine,” says Hassan. “It’s the NYPD spying at a parking lot with two police officer’s and a soldier’s vehicle. Don’t forget the mass of attorneys and doctors at that mosque as well.” Hassan grew concerned with how this would affect his career in the military. “Adverse effects on my BisqDV2CAAArdkIposition and career in the US military are what led me to join this lawsuit. That’s the reason that I’m plaintiff number 11,” says Hassan. Having devoted his life to serving his country and defending Americans from threats, he is now faced with a situation where his rights are being pushed aside altogether. “We are American and there’s no reason that our rights should be abridged simply because of the way that we pray. It’s not happening, it’s not happening here but the judge decided that it’s okay. Lady liberty is blind except when it comes to hijab,” says Hassan.

Hassan vs. City of New York was met with a dismissal from the judge declaring that there was not any evidence of discrimination or injury on their part. The NYPD’s job is to protect the safety of American citizens and do whatever it takes to ensure that security based on what the judge in this case said. But, how far is too far when this includes putting the lives of innocent Americans under surveillance simply for the way they worship?

This was the same question that Hassan asked himself when he realized that the mosque that he was going to suddenly became a source for potential terrorists in the eyes of the NYPD.  TIM made multiple calls and emails asking the NYPD to comment on the case, but the District Commissioner’s office refused to respond.

But to Hassan, the spying was all for naught.  “The community has nothing to do with terrorism or anything illegal, any type of investigation showed that these were just normal people going about their daily business just as anyone else would,” explains Hassan.  “It was just a giant abhorrent waste of time and taxpayer dollars. Not one credible lead came out of any of the NYPD surveillance on any of the Muslim institutions that they did their work on.”

It seems that the only reasons the NYPD began its investigation was because the people happen to be Muslims living in New Jersey just like the 9/11 hijackers. Not only was this enough reason to spy, it was also enough for a judge to dismiss a case and give carte blanche to any police force across the United States of America to keep a closer watch on specific Americans for the sake of national security.

HiResThe repercussions of such a situation are dire.  There is a real potential that Muslim communities across the nation will suddenly find themselves under surveillance because of the fact that they pray five times a day and celebrate Ramadan. But it doesn’t stop there. Muslims may be at the top of the surveillance list today, but tomorrow there may be a different enemy and thus a different community that will face a similar fate.

“I think it’s a slippery slope, a very slippery slope. My question is who’s next? Right now Muslims are being spied on. I open my window and there’s a cop spying right now.  For what reason, I don’t have a right to know. I just happen to be a Muslim so he or she can go right ahead and watch,” says Hassan. “The fundamental rights of American citizens are under attack by the police force. Today it’s the Muslims; we can be treated with suspicion for no other reason than being who we are. Any community can be next, whoever the enemy of the moment is.” And many of these minority groups have expressed their concern. “One thing that happens is that community groups that are concerned but who are not parties will file briefs with the courts saying that they support the position of the plaintiffs in this case,” explains Glenn Katon, legal advisor on the case. “We think that there will be a lot of groups doing these briefs based on what we’ve heard from various community leaders outside the Muslim community.”

The judge’s decision to deem it legal and justified the spying on American Muslims irks many into feeling that they are second-class citizens. We are not given our rights just as they are given to our neighbors who lead normal lives and go undisturbed knowing that their names are not being compiled into lists that will determine whether they can catch their flight or get that job they’ve always wanted. We are just as concerned with safety as the NYPD is. Many people wonder exactly why they are being casted as the enemy.  Such situations will only create more animosity between community members and their neighbors as well as towards the police force that is obliged to ensure our security as much as anyone elses within our cities and towns. It would be in no one’s best interest to have entire groups of people feel targeted for the color of their skin or the manner in which they practice their religion. And yet, today, in 2014, a time when we are attempting to break down racial barriers, judges and police departments are still generalizing and justifying acts that take us back to the pre-civil rights era.

iStock_000001014503MediumBut the plaintiffs will push forward for their rights and those of every minority group member that may be targeted in the future. The world continues to become a smaller place and a lot of what happens across oceans and on different continents has an affect on people living in small towns in the US. The rights of Americans are being disregarded in the courts and this is not something that should be taken lightly. We’ve seen it in the past and we are seeing it once again now. There always seems to be an enemy of the state or a minority group that is treated as lesser human beings.

One would think that history has taught us a lesson.  But it clearly has not. The ‘us versus them’ argument has come back into play. Today, them is the Muslims.  Only time will tell who it may be tomorrow. But for now, we as American Muslims, are forced into a situation where we must not only prove ourselves innocent from what the outliers do but also American enough to be considered American since being law-abiding citizens who pay taxes and invest in the country doesn’t seem to be enough anymore.

Hassan stares at a full sized American flag while discussing the details of the trial. “The judge thinks that we’re different. Muslim Americans are no different than anyone else,” says Hassan. “No one wants to drive on potholes, everyone wants their kids to be better off than themselves and we all just want to be left alone.”


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    Yasmine Hassan

    Associate Features Editor, Yasmine Hassan, is a freelance writer in politics and current events with a B.A. in Political Science from Concordia University.

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    • Selma Salih Al Maria

      And, now what… this much has been a known fact for well over two decades now. Is he going further with this or he is giving up? Instead of stating something we all know very well, what do you propose is to be done?