L.A. Muslims look askance at ‘mapping’ plan

L.A. Muslims look askance at ‘mapping’ plan

By The Associated Press

11.12.07

LOS ANGELES — Is the Los Angeles Police Department snooping on Muslims?

Critics say a police counterterrorism effort to identify and map Muslim communities amounts to religious and racial profiling — investigating residents based on what they look like, or where they worship.

But city officials defended the effort on Nov. 9, depicting it as “community engagement” aimed at welcoming sometimes insular Muslim groups into all aspects of city life. It is about transparency, not clandestine surveillance, they said.

Police respect “the civil and human rights of Muslims,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said.

Deputy Chief Michael P. Downing said objections were coming from people who “don’t really understand what we are doing.”

“We are not looking at individuals. We are looking at groups and communities,” Downing said. Police want to be viewed as “trusted friends.”

An estimated 500,000 Muslims live in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties. The police department is trying to identify the location of Muslim enclaves to determine which might be susceptible to “violent, ideologically-based extremism,” Downing said Nov. 8.

The intent, he said, is to “reach out to those communities,” including Pakistanis, Iranians and Chechens.

Several Muslim groups and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California sent Downing a letter expressing “grave concerns.” It was signed by representatives of Muslim Advocates, a national association of Muslim lawyers; the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California; and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“Singling out individuals for investigation, surveillance, and data-gathering based on their religion constitutes religious profiling that is just as unlawful, ill-advised and deeply offensive as racial profiling,” the letter said.

Testifying before Congress in October, Downing said his bureau wanted to “take a deeper look at the history, demographics, language, culture, ethnic breakdown, socio-economic status and social interactions” of the city’s Muslim communities.

Downing plans to meet with Muslim leaders on Nov. 15.

Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said he would withhold judgment until hearing more from police this week.

“Muslims should be treated as partners, not suspects,” he said.

Chief William Bratton said the initiative was intended to get officers into communities, meeting with people and learning the local landscape.

 

<http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/news.aspx?id=19314>

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One thought on “L.A. Muslims look askance at ‘mapping’ plan

  1. Mapping is a Symptom of Profiling, while the Root Cause is in the Policy

    Muslim American organizations along with the vast majority of civil society opposed the mapping plan considered by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Ideas like mapping don’t occur in a vacuum but within a paradigm of treating Muslim American as suspects. That is the thinking of many on Capitol Hill, where the idea of profiling is tolerated and the notion of secret evidence against Muslim Americans is sanctioned. Until a clear debate takes place in our nation’s capital on how to engage Muslim Americans in a healthy and transparent manner, then law enforcement agencies that take their cue from our political leaders in Washington will continue to propose ideas and implement plans that violate the trust of the Muslim American community.

    In a meeting with LAPD Chief William Bratton, over 20 Muslim American leaders were reassured that no plan will move forward without the input and support of the Muslim community. Now it’s time to reassure the Muslim American community, who continue to be viewed under a cloud of suspicion and to have their patriotism questioned. It’s time that our political leaders, not just law enforcement, engage with Muslim Americans.

    Mapping was an idea by the LAPD mentioned at the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, co-chaired by Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME). They have had several hearings on radicalization. To date, the Senators have not invited a mainstream Muslim organization to testify and they have not offered a definition of radicalization. That vagueness leads policy-makers and policy-enforcers to define Muslim Americans rather than allowing us to define ourselves.

    The most troubling aspect of this episode with the LAPD mapping plan is the sentiment among Muslim youth. They feel that they have to explain what they are not, i.e, radicals, rather than who they are, i.e. citizens contributing to the fabric of American society. The vast majority of Muslim Americans, young and old, are well-integrated and socio-economically successful. Let’s keep it that way by challenging our policy-makers to dialogue with Muslim Americans.

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