Most people have heard of the slang term “DWB”, Driving While Black, to refer to the higher incidence of black drivers being pulled over compared to white. In some areas, “DWH”, or Driving While Hispanic, is more prevalent. In recent years, Flying While Muslim has become a term used to describe the increased scrutiny faced by anyone who appears to be of Middle Eastern heritage. But now, the New York Police Department is tracking a new group, leading to the emergence of the term Studying While Muslim.
The CIA assisted the NYPD with the development of surveillance methods for Muslim groups in the New York area. The NYPD has used those methods to track and wiretap Muslim groups of all types. Mosques, community groups, even student associations at New England colleges are being investigated.
No evidence needs to be presented in order for a person to be investigated; at least, no evidence beyond religion. Supporters of the NYPD’s surveillance of the Muslim community claim that being associated with a mosque is enough evidence, since terrorists involved with the attacks on September 11, 2001 were associated with a mosque. Likewise, since 12 terrorists who have voiced anti-American sentiment were members of Muslim student groups in college, being a member of a Muslim student group in college is enough to earn investigation.
Author and comedian Dean Obeidallah, a former lawyer, raises the point that freedom of religion is about more than just being allowed to worship as a person pleases. Freedom of religion means that members of a religion should not be persecuted simply for being members of that religion.
The NYPD, perhaps in an effort to make Muslims feel less like they have been singled out, has been disproportionally stopping other minority groups during routine police stops. The New York branch of the ACLU, the NYCLU, released statistics regarding police stops in New York over the last few years. This release shows that while 44% of the general population is white, only 9% of those stopped- for anything from speeding to drug possession- were white.
New York law enforcement is not alone in this trend of racial disparity. The North Carolina branch of the ACLU has been working with local branches of the NAACP to address the misuse of police checkpoints by the Winston Salem police department. This blog has addressed this issue before, and will revisit the issue as the investigation and potential litigation develops.
It seems that the nation has not quite become “post-racial,” in terms of the way minorities are treated. The only steps made have been to no longer single out the black community for unfair treatment, but to include Hispanic and Middle Eastern people.