Thank you, Governor Chris Christie

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By: Dr. Aref Assaf

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Governor Chris Christie deserves credit for standing up to the bullying of the NYPD and the NY politicians who went to extremes to justify the illegal, unconstitutional, and warrantless spying on American Muslim citizens. We thank you, Governor Christie, for standing up for New Jersey long seen as a dumping ground for New Yorkers. We are finally celebrating the fruits of our independence. The arrogance exhibited by NYPD chief Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg is truly appalling.

This is what leadership is all about: standing up for what is right. Of course, we want law enforcement agencies to keep us safe; that is their mandate. However, they must do so within the limits of our cherished laws. America needs and deserves morally principled leaders like you. My faith in America’s dream of “Justice for All” is forever restored. I am forever proud to be an American citizen of the Muslim faith. Your words will go a long way to healing our wounded spirits. Our sense of betrayal, I hope will soon is replaced by an immeasurable faith in America’s resolve to do what is moral, legal and just.

But Governor Christie, you have not addressed the real tragedy. Jurisdictional considerations and proper notifications issues notwithstanding, the real issue you need to address is the clear violation of our religious and civil rights. Profiling is illegal, immoral, and counterproductive. Spying on an entire community is unconstitutional and must be stopped and you must hold all who enabled such activities accountable.

The NYPD has violated Muslim citizens’ civil rights and destroyed the trust necessary for effective policing. Lacking transparency, the stop and frisk practices, intrusive surveillance measures, these acts undermine trust between the Muslim community and the NYPD. BY targeting citizens solely based on their faith, the NYPD has effectively criminalized the practice of Islam. This policy was foreboded by the questionable and flawed 2007 NYPD Report on Radicalization in the West. It suggests that the religious behavior of Muslims is a sign of incipient terrorism. The NYPD has established this policy to target a segment of New York and New Jersey community based on religion and not on suspicion or probable cause afforded under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution and N.Y. Const. Art. I, § 11.

This behavior fosters distrust and suspicion among all vulnerable communities, which deserve assurances those law enforcement agencies, local, state and federal are subject to oversight that will ensure the right of all Americans to be free from unwarranted police invasiveness. The NYPD’s measure of success is attained only when it focuses on tracking down actual threats, not targeting innocent Americans for invasive investigations and surveillance.

So, Governor Christie, you have taken the NYPD to task. Now complete your mandate to protect the residents of your great state. Order your Attorney General to commence a full investigation of what really happened and who conspired with the NYPD. Only then, my real celebration will begin.


Dr. Aref Assaf is president of American Arab Forum.

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