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NYPD's new excuse for racial profiling

August 31, 2007 | Page 7

ARIELLA COHEN looks at a New York Police Department report on "homegrown terrorism."

"THEY LOOK, act, talk and walk like everyone around them." That's the twisted conclusion of a scaremongering report released this month by the New York Police Department (NYPD) about potential terror cells made up of young Muslim Americans.

The report, titled "Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat," claims to be a guide for law enforcement agencies to "pre-empt" the growth of terrorist groups in the U.S. But its criteria for identifying "homegrown terrorists" are so broad as to justify suspicion and harassment of any and all Muslims.

"In the early stages of their radicalization, these individuals rarely travel, are not participating in any kind of militant activity, yet they are slowly building the mindset, intention and commitment to conduct jihad," the report asserts. It goes on to describe a four-stage process of "jihadization," which includes becoming more religious, associating with a mosque or frequenting a hookah bar.

"[Potential terrorists] are not on the law enforcement radar," states the report. "Most have never been arrested or involved in any kind of legal trouble." They are "unremarkable" with "ordinary jobs" and "ordinary lives."

In essence, the report is saying that any law-abiding Muslim-American who becomes more religious or smokes a hookah pipe in public could constitute a terrorist threat.

"The sweeping generalizations in the study reinforce negative stereotypes and unwarranted suspicions about the Muslim community," the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a statement. "The report serves to further marginalize the community by labeling almost every American Muslim as a potential threat."

Many other groups have gone on to question the validity of the "study" itself. Kareem Shora, legal adviser for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, called the findings faulty and inflammatory. "The report is at odds with federal law enforcement findings, including those of the recently released National Intelligence Estimate," she said.

Police officials said the study is based on an analysis of 11 domestic plots allegedly thwarted since the September 11 attacks, including in Lackawanna, N.Y.; Portland, Ore.; and a plot to attack the Herald Square subway station in New York City in 2004.

The report fails to mention that the arrests of individuals in these cases were based on little, if any, actual evidence.

For example, earlier this year, Shahawar Matin Siraj was sentenced to 30 years in prison for planning to attack the Herald Square subway station during the Republican National Convention in 2004.

But his case is a prime example of how the government, desperate to claim a victory against terrorism, went out of its way to entrap Siraj. Prosecutors built their case on testimony from an informant who was paid $100,000. At the time of his arrest, Siraj had no concrete plan to bomb the subway station, no timetable, no explosives and no real knowledge of explosives.

It was the paid informant who first planted the idea of the attack and coaxed Siraj into going along with it. "The New York City police department created a crime, in order to solve it and claim a victory for the war on terror," said Martin Stolar, Siraj's attorney.

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THE NYPD study only takes into account so-called Islamic extremism while completely ignoring white supremacy and neo-Nazi organizations.

It is well known that many of such far-right groups have clear and well-defined plans to attack individuals and the government. Some are even stockpiling arms and explosives, and there have been documented cases of violent attacks against individuals by members of these organizations.

Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, was neither an immigrant nor Muslim.

What's more, white supremacist organizations are using anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hysteria to swell their ranks. In recent years, white supremacist groups have seen a burst of growth, according to the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Then there's the source of these accusations against Muslims--the NYPD itself. "New York's finest" have a long record of carrying out abuse, harassment and violence against the city's have-nots, especially racial minorities.

When Sean Bell was shot on the morning of his wedding day in a hail of police bullets, the bishop of Sean's church described his neighborhood as "Little Iraq." That's because the NYPD act like an occupying army in poor areas of the city, using the threat of overwhelming violence to terrorize the population.

Since September 11, politicians and law enforcement agencies have created a climate of hate against Muslims, Middle Eastern people and South Asians. The NYPD's report will only heighten suspicion of these communities--and justify racial profiling and the further erosion of civil liberties in the name of "national security."

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