In a previous news quiz, one of the questions was about NYPD and what group of people they had been secretly watching. Even out of their area, into New Jersey, NYPD was keeping a surveillance on Muslims. They went into businesses frequented by Muslims to eavesdrop, they took the license plate numbers of Muslims worshiping at mosques, and they monitored Muslim student organizations.
Here are the main articles I am using for this post. I’m listing them here for your convenience, although I linked them when I used them as well.
When the news first broke, all anyone knew was that NYPD had been targeting Muslims in New Jersey. Now we know why, according to this Huffington Post article. A secret unit called the Demographic Unit gathered information about Muslims of many different ethnicities (Egyptian, Syrian, etc) and profiled the people, businesses, and neighborhoods identified with those ethnicities. The goal behind the unit was to have a better idea of where a terrorist would try to hide. According to the article, NYPD admitted to having no real leads when they began surveying an area or a group of people.
What I find the most interesting about this entire situation is that it only became important when it was discovered that NYPD was keeping an eye on Muslims in New Jersey, although according to this NJ.com article it was “no big secret.” According to this USA Today article it was a complete surprise. Wonder who’s right. Anyway, it has been going on for around a decade, and not just in New Jersey! And we’re only now finding out about it? I wonder how this has slipped through the cracks. Only after the fury of 9/11 had died down and people began to remember that Muslims were people just like everyone else, that’s when.
The coverage of Muslims is a topic I have covered in my Cross-Cultural Journalism class as well. Before 9/11, Muslims were an invisible people in the media world. After the attacks however, they were suddenly the hot topic. Unfortunately, it was a topic that shed a terrible light of terrorism on them. The way they were portrayed made it seem like every Muslim was just waiting to blow up your house. Hide yo’ kids, hide yo’ wife.
After the hatred and fear surrounding 9/11 faded, the media began to realize exacty how afraid the rest of America was of Muslims and began to correct this problem. Or, at least try. I feel as though the media tried to erase the terrorist stereotype that America had built up and remind us all that Muslims were just another part of America. I believe that since 9/11 the media has began to do a much better job covering this group of people.
However, when stories like this come out, it reminds me that the distrust is still there. Many people are still afraid of a people they may not understand or have a stereotype against. NYPD’s surveillance of Muslims, specifically, is a glaring example. Although they claimed to be watching groups of geographically related people, it really boiled down to ethnicity and religion. When they began profiling Albanians, for example, they focused solely on Muslim Albanians, even though the Albanian culture involved many religions.
It isn’t ethically right that only Muslims have been targeted. However, according to the USA today article, because of the profiling compiled by NYPD, 14 additional terrorist attacks have been shut down. That’s a lot of attempted attacks. The problem that then presents itself is security vs privacy violation. How do we decide which is the most important? Many people are heavily criticizing the police department for so harshly surveying one specific religious group. The depth they went to retrieve information is highly disturbing and very violating. However, what if one of those attacks they have stopped was going to be a fatal as 9/11? If NYPD is forced to stop its surveillance, could another terrorist attack occur because of that restriction? Many of the halted threats were pipe bombs and hand grenades. These may not be on the same scale as 9/11 but it would still be an attack.
It’s a tough decision to make. But not everyone is against NYPD’s profiling, according to this random Atlanta Journal-Constitution article and this Fox News article. Even fewer reports can be found about those in support of NYPD, even though they obviously exist.