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  • Writer's picturemparikian

The Unlawful Mapping of Muslim Americans

Community Members protesting a Muslim hate crime in Queens, New York

Since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, hate crimes against Muslims have reached all-time highs, along with the rapid spread of Islamophobic ideologies. Just shortly after the attacks, the spread of propaganda pinned the attacks directly to Muslims, fabricating racial stereotypes and profiles that are believed and used to this day. These racial stereotypes focused on making people associate Muslims with terrorism, resulting in many people believing the religion is focused on violence and terroristic principals. This association has led to the disproportionate level of additional police surveillance amongst Muslim Americans, as many people still fear the presence of a Hijab.

Today, many of the surveillance tactics used in American to prevent “terrorism” focuses on surveilling Muslim Americans, as they continue to live as the prime suspects. The United States involvement in the middle east as always been advertised as “counter terrorism”, especially when it is need to justify the invasion of a new country. The war in Afghanistan and Iraq painted the image of a Muslim terrorist as the primary target, and initialized the fabrication of Islamophobic ideologies that still spread amongst the American population. It comes to no surprise that police officers also demonstrate some of these ideologies, as many police departments consist of military veterans who faced Muslim enemies for the past two decades. In one study conducted by the Islamophobic Studies Journal in 2015, interviews with police departments between 2011 and 2015 found that a vast majority of those interviewed still associated the Muslims with violence and didn’t believe Islam actually promotes peace.

These false associations may have resulted in the foundation for programs like the NYPD Muslim Surveillance and Mapping Program. Between 2001 to 2014, the New York Police Departments Intelligence Division created a surveillance program to map Muslim Americans living in New York, as well as profiled communities as Muslim communities. The program began by mapping every mosque within 100 miles of New York, then expanding to restaurants, shops, and schools which were predominately Muslim. The unit would work closely with the Central Intelligence Agency, to carry out domestic operations focused on surveilling members of these communities. Many Muslim Americans fell victim both racial profiling and excessive police surveillance, creating absurd levels of discriminatory and unlawful police practices. It was not just New York that created a Muslim mapping project, as in 2007 the Los Angeles Police department also developed one of their own. The program in LA was disguised as a community engagement plan which helped map nearly 700,000 Muslims as well as other middle eastern communities. Although the Demographics Unit was dismantled in 2014, Muslims, to this day, still live with the stereotypes that actions like these created. These programs demonstrate the levels law enforcement are willing to reach in an effort to profile a group of individuals, despite it being unlawful. Levels of police discrimination still exist to this day, and although formal programs many not be in place, it is still our duty to address instances of profiling in an effort to eliminate it from out policing practices.


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