LAPD maps Muslim Communities
Chief William Bratton – Hollywood, CA © Glenn Harris / Photorazzi
By Karyn Chenoweth Nov 10, 2007, 18:35 GMT
A plan by the Los Angeles Ppolice Department counterterrorism bureau to create a map detailing the Muslim communities in that city was reported Friday to be angering civil rights groups.
At least three major Muslim groups and the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter Thursday to top city officials raising concerns about the plan, The New York Times reported.
“When the starting point for a police investigation is, ‘Let’s look at all Muslims,’ we are going down a dangerous road,” attorney Peter Bibring of the ACLU of Southern California told the newspaper in an interview.
KNBC channel 4 reports that Los Angeles-based Muslim groups were critical of the approach.
“For the LAPD or any police department to assume that one group is more terrorist or violent than another because of their religion alone, that’s a very scary phenomenon in our country,” a Muslim advocate group representative said.
One representative brought up past incidents, comparing them to the recent developments regarding the map.
“It arouses suspicions in the minds of Muslims that, ‘Here we come again,'” a Muslim Public Affairs Council of Southern California representative said. “They wanted to study us, to classify us, to map us.”
The objections started after LAPD Deputy Chief Michael P. Downing, who heads the counterterrorism bureau, testified before a U.S. Senate committee on Oct. 30 that the LAPD was combining forces with an unidentified academic institution and looking for a Muslim partner to carry out the mapping project of Muslim neighborhoods, the Times reported.
He testified that the project would determine the geographic distribution of Muslims in the Los Angeles area and take “a look at their history, demographics, language, culture, ethnic breakdown, socioeconomic status and social interactions.”
The idea, Downing told the Times, would be to determine which communities might be having problems integrating and thus might have members susceptible to carrying out attacks.
The estimated 500,000 Muslims living in the Greater L.A. area, including Orange and Riverside counties, represent the second-biggest U.S. concentration outside New York City.
KNBC channel 4 reports that all not area Muslim groups object to Downing’s idea.
Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which is considering being the LAPD’s partner in the project, told the Times he supported anything that would help integration, as long as it safeguarded civil liberties.
But other groups argue that the mapping idea is no better than racial profiling.
The letter sent Thursday suggested that representatives of groups opposed to the project meet with Downing to discuss it, the Times reported. Signatories included Muslim Advocates, a national association of Muslim lawyers, and the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella organization for mosques.
On Friday, LAPD Chief William Bratton addressed the issue at a police academy graduation ceremony.
“I think what we got hung up on unfortunately was a word — mapping,” Bratton said at a police academy graduation ceremony. “And that unfortunately conjures up partially the concerns in this country we have about profiling, whether for religious purposes or racial purposes — this is about community engagement.”
The engagement is necessary to identify extremist elements, the LAPD said. They referenced European cities as examples where detached Muslim communities are fertile breeding grounds for terrorist recruitment.
Local Muslims disagreed with the comparisons.
“I don’t think that American Muslims are very susceptible to that because we enjoy a certain degree of economic prosperity in this country,” one woman said.
According to KNBC channel 4, Muslim groups have scheduled a meeting with LAPD officials next week.