Thursday, February 23, 2012

An open letter to Mayor Bloomberg about the NYPD profiling of Muslims

Mayor Bloomberg was asked on Tuesday about the NYPD’s profiling of American students of Muslim background over multiple states, and the response of multiple university communities (including Yale, Rutgers, and UPenn) against the NYPD’s practice.  

Bloomberg’s past comments on this issue have raised a few eyebrows, including his previous insistence that:

If there are threats or leads to follow, then the NYPD’s job is to do it. The law is pretty clear about what’s the requirement, and I think they follow the law….We don’t stop to think about the religion. We stop to think about the threats and focus our efforts there.”   [emphasis added]

The award winning investigation by the Association Press contradicted the Mayor’s claims, stating that there had been “no evidence of terrorism or criminal behavior. It was a guide to Newark’s Muslims.” 
In other words, pace the Mayor, the NYPD was not only thinking about religion, religion was the category that the NYPD used in profiling the Muslim students. 

On Tuesday, during Mayor Bloomberg’s appearance at the Brooklyn Public Library, some reporters pressed the Mayor on whether it is appropriate to profile American students who are Muslim, to count the number of times they pray, to watch the restaurants they eat in, and even accompany them on a rafting trip.   Might such profiling have gone too far?   “No,” said the mayor:   

“We have to keep this country safe. This is a dangerous place. Make no mistake about it. It’s very cute to go and to blame everybody and say we should stay away from anything that smacks of intelligence gathering. The job of our law enforcement is to make sure that they prevent things. And you only do that by being proactive.”

Bloomberg then went on an odd rant, connecting the NYPD’s racial and religious profiling of Muslims to our cherished freedom of speech:

You have to respect people’s right to privacy. You have to obey the law. And I think the police officers across this country, at the federal level, state level, the city level, do that. But having said all of that, you are not going to survive, you will not be able to be a journalist and write what you want to say if the people who want to take away your freedoms are allowed to succeed.

Great…  We don’t want the “people who want to take away your freedoms” [terrorists] to succeed.  So to make sure that they don’t succeed, we will take away our own freedoms.  

To make sure others don’t destroy what’s so great about America, we’ll destroy ourselves. 

Take that, terrorists!   You didn’t get to destroy us after all.  We did it to ourselves.    

Brilliant logic, mayor Bloomberg.
Mr. Bloomberg: You are not getting it.  It’s not about being “cute”, as you say.   What’s at stake is nothing less than our civil rights and liberties.   Dr. King had stated:  “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” 

Mr. Bloomberg, where you are choosing to stand in this time of crisis is unbecoming of the leader of one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the world.

Mr. Bloomberg:  Allow me to introduce you to a person you seem to have forgotten about.    A fairly important person, named Benjamin Franklin:  “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Mr. Bloomberg: This choice between “essential liberty” and “a little temporary safety” is a false one, and unworthy of our American Dream. 

Mr. Bloomberg:  By profiling, spying on, and marginalizing the weakest and most vilified citizens of our country, you trample on the liberties of all of us, and fail to deliver us safety.    Two losses, with no gain. 

Mr. Bloomberg: During the false “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy (more properly, the manufactured Park51 controversy), you so brilliantly made a case for the pluralistic history of America, and what we as New Yorkers stand for.    You were bold, inclusive, indeed a visionary.     Where is that courage now?  

Mr. Bloomberg:  You become a leader by serving all of your citizens, including the Muslim ones, not by stepping on some during times of fear.

Mr. Bloomberg:  You, and we, can do better.   You, and we, must do better.  

Photo of Bloomberg is from here.

Image of Ben Franklin is from here.

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