By: Dr. Aref Assaf
I am disappointed in the lukewarm Rutgers University (RU) statement issued in response to the NYPD spying activities on Muslims students. It reads like an intern wrote it. The statements fail to unequivocally condemn the warrantless invasion of students’ privacy and the violation of their civil and religious rights. In an ill-advised manner, RU is- are you sitting down- asking the NYPD to investigate its self. This demand borders on silly at best and ignorant if I am generous. How can you expect the NYPD to honestly scrutinize its multi-year, multi-state spying efforts when the culture that has been spread throughout the department is that of hate and distrust towards Islam and its adherents? We do not need an investigation from the NYPD or even Mayor Bloomberg. Unapologetically, and expectedly, they already claim no wrongdoing. While preemptive police work is the jewel of law enforcement, what the NYPD was doing bordered on the predatory attack on potentially millions of Muslims in the Tri-state area. We all know that the faith of, not the specific behavior of certain suspects, was the only motivation for this massive witch-hunt of an entire community of innocent American citizens. \
The religious lynching of American Muslims must stop. while hatred, vilification, and suspicion of American Muslims abound all over the Internet, the phenomenon was always reduced to a few bigots and even fewer adherents. But when Islamophobia seeps into the public discourse and actually forms the core of law enforcement work, the matter becomes a national disgrace. The NYPD to regain its regal stature must, therefore, cleanse itself of the culture of hate that criminalizes the practice of Islam and begin to shrink its dragnet from all over an entire community of innocent Muslim citizens to that which is focused on behavioral signs of potential criminals and following due process and respect for all our laws. Only then can we expect healing to occur. That’s why we call upon the NJ Attorney General and the US Attorney General to investigate and hold accountable those who have so glaringly abused their powers by infringing the protection afforded by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the US Constitution and the relevant State Statutes. Such an investigation may produce evidence of complicity on the part of the University.
As the AP reported on October 11, 2011, student academic records were sought and obtained by the NYPD contrary to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal statute that makes it illegal to hand over such records without the students’ consent. The punishment for doing so can be the loss of millions of the school’s federal funding. Until all the facts are known, and all doubts removed, the chilling effect upon the Muslim community will render them afraid to leave their homes, to pray in their mosque or to congregate in communal events. The long-term impact of our of innocence is immense, the suspicion of our loyalty and questioning of patriotism serves not our country’s desire for security but the bestial aims of hatemongers.
I am calling on the administration of Rutgers University to first rewrite their statement to clearly state their unconditional denunciation of the NYPD activities. It is also critical the Administration meet with Muslim and Arab student organizations to reestablish credibility and trust. Additionally, I ask the administration to commence a full review and assessment of its internal security procedures and policies to ensure that a student’s consent is obtained or a judge’s warrant is submitted before student records are made public. And finally, to endorse and fully collaborate with the NJ Attorney General whose office is expected to undertake a thorough investigation of what, how and where all the spying and law violation took place. Come clean RU and remain a bastion of freedom. Short of this, Rutgers Muslim students, and indeed all students, should walk with an eye to their backs.
Dr. Aref Assaf, president of American Arab Forum
The full text of the RU official statement may be found here.