(LOS ANGELES, CA, 11/9/07) – The Greater Los Angeles area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) today joined other civil liberties groups and Islamic institutions to voice opposition to a project proposed by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to “map” Muslim communities in Southern California.
CAIR-LA, along with the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Muslim Advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, sent a letter to the LAPD Thursday expressing concerns over the possible civil rights violations if the proposed “mapping” of the Muslim community were to move forward.
The letter stated, in part: “The mapping of Muslim communities as part of counter-terrorism efforts seems premised on the faulty notion that Muslims are more likely to commit violent acts than people of other faiths. Singling out individuals for investigation, surveillance, and data-gathering based on their religion constitutes religious profiling that is just as unlawful, ill-advised, and deeply offensive as racial profiling.”
SEE ALSO: Protest Greets Police Plan to Map Muslims (NY Times)
SEE ALSO: LAPD to Build Data on Muslim Areas (LA Times)
SEE ALSO: LAPD Mapping Plan Draws Ire from Muslims (USA Today)
“Based on statements of those involved, it is clear that the ‘mapping’ project would target the Muslim community based not on any suspicious criminal activities, but rather on the basis of legitimate religious and political views protected by the First Amendment,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR-LA. “This project would undermine many years spent building trust and partnership between the Muslim community and law enforcement agencies.”
In the letter, the Muslim and civil rights leaders also requested a meeting with Commander Michael Downing of the LAPD, scheduled for Oct. 15, to discuss concerns about the “mapping” project.
CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 33 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
MPAC OPPOSES RACIAL PROFILING, AWAITS MEETING
TO DISCUSS SPECIFICS OF LAPD “MUSLIM MAPPING” PLAN
(Los Angeles - 11/9/07)—The Muslim Public Affairs Council today held a press conference following media reports of the Los Angeles Police Department’s announcement of a proposed program to “map” the Southern California Muslim American community.
“Our position has always been and will continue to be that we are against any and all forms of racial profiling,” said MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati. “MPAC has not endorsed anything because there is nothing to endorse. MPAC’s Board of Directors have not seen an actual proposal, which we would need to do before we make any judgment or pronouncements about LAPD’s plans.”
Any aspect of racial profiling or singling out Muslim Americans for scrutiny in the plan would be a violation of the Department of Justice’s 2003 Guidelines on Racial Profiling, and would drastically undermine any trust between law enforcement and local communities.
Al-Marayati, along with other Muslim leaders in Southern California, will be attending a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 15 called by LAPD Deputy Chief Mike Downing to learn more about the proposal and discuss its merits and implications.
“All the concerns—engagement concerns, civil rights concerns, dialogue concerns—will all be addressed there, and then we will have a clearer idea about what this is all about,” Al-Marayati said. “We are in dialogue and consultation with everyone involved in this issue—which includes civil rights groups, Muslim American organizations and law enforcement—about where to proceed with the dialogue and we will go to the meeting in that spirit of dialogue.”
A centerpiece of MPAC’s ongoing policy approach is engagement with government, civil rights groups, media outlets, and interfaith groups through consistent, honest, and critical exchange. MPAC’s position in terms of engagement with law enforcement is rooted in a shared goal of keeping America safe and free. Within that proposition, Muslim Americans should be treated as partners not as suspects.
A striking model in this type of engagement is the Muslim American Homeland Security Congress (MAHSC) founded by Sheriff Lee Baca and MPAC Senior Adviser Dr. Maher Hathout. The MAHSC board of directors includes representatives from nearly a dozen diverse Muslim groups in Southern California, who meet regularly to engage in an open exchange of ideas. This is the kind of engagement that MPAC will continue to support and believes is crucial to accomplish two equally important goals: supporting the integration of Muslims into society, and enhancing understanding of government and law enforcement about our communities.
“If there is any proposal that singles out the Muslim community to be studied as a specimen, we are against that,” Hathout said today. “We stand hand-in-hand with the community and the Muslim organizations and the civil rights groups in resenting any notion of profiling. The only way to alleviate these anxieties is with the truth. We look forward to the meeting as an opportunity to speak directly with LAPD and other Muslim organizations on these issues.”
Chief Downing testified Oct. 30 before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security about the value of community engagement.
“For the 18 months, we have been involved in outreach and grassroots dialogue with Muslim communities, bringing the entire command staff to observe, learn, engage and, most importantly, listen,” Downing said. “This has helped to build more robust trust networks at the divisional level of police service. One of our goals is to be viewed as trusted friends by Muslim communities in our city.”
In his testimony, Downing also said his bureau wanted to “take a deeper look at the history, demographics, language, culture, ethnic breakdown, socioeconomic status and social interactions” of the city’s Muslim communities. The project would collect information about specific neighborhoods but not individuals, according to Downing.
“Muslim Americans don’t live in isolated neighborhoods, they are dispersed, well integrated and political diverse,” Al-Marayati said. “In terms of know where they live, it’s impossible to achieve. They are highly integrated and we want to keep it that way. It’s not realistic to think that they are going to find out where all the Muslims live.”
Founded in 1988, the Muslim Public Affairs Council is an American institution which informs and shapes public opinion and policy by serving as a trusted resource to decision makers in government, media and policy institutions. MPAC is also committed to developing leaders with the purpose of enhancing the political and civic participation of Muslim Americans