Did Bloomberg's Fear of Muslims Drive Spying?

According to ColorLines, trust between New York City's mayor and Muslims has been "thin at best" for some time.

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An NYU student protests surveillance of Muslims. (The Associated Press)

Earlier this month, the New York Police Department came under fire for spying on Muslim establishments like mosques, cafes and stores as well as Muslim college students. Various Muslim civil rights groups have blasted the department's surveillance program.

According to ColorLines, trust between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Muslim community has been "thin at best" for a decade. Seth Freed Wessler takes a look back at the origins of this troubled relationship and asks whether Bloomberg's attitudes toward Muslims could have inspired the surveillance in the first place:

Bloomberg is a mayor with a profound apprehension about Muslim and Arab communities and a track record of articulating that through biased policy. When in 2010, Bloomberg defended the right of a group of Muslims to build an Islamic cultural center near the site of the World Trade Center Towers, that was the exception. The spying program and Bloomberg’s defense of it falls more squarely in line with his administration’s general operating procedures.

When the Associated Press first revealed that the NYPD was spying on Muslims in and around New York City, Bloomberg chose denial. “If there are threats or leads to follow, then the NYPD’s job is to do it,” the mayor said at a late August press conference. “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.”

Then in September, after evidence to the contrary mounted, the mayor broadly defended categorical profiling, saying, “If you want to look for cases of measles, you’ll find a lot more of them among young people. That’s not targeting young people to go see whether they have measles or not.” But even then, he refrained from an outright defense of religious spying.

Then last week, in the face of growing evidence that made his lies increasingly apparent, the mayor changed his line again, now effectively admitting to suspiciousless religious profiling. “When there’s no lead, you’re just trying to get familiar with what’s going on, where people might go and where people might be to say something,” Bloomberg said on a local radio show, according to the AP. “And you want to listen. If they’re going to give a public speech, you want to know where they do it.”

Read more at ColorLines.

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