Fed up with a decade of the police spying on the innocuous details of the daily lives of Muslims, activists in New York are discouraging people from going directly to the police with their concerns about terrorism, a campaign that is certain to further strain relations between the two groups.
Muslim community leaders are openly teaching people how to identify police informants, encouraging them to always talk to a lawyer before speaking with the authorities and reminding people already working with law enforcement that they have the right to change their minds. Some members of the community have planned a demonstration for next week.
Some government officials point to this type of outreach as proof that Muslims aren’t cooperating in the fight against terrorism, justifying the aggressive spy tactics, while many in the Muslim community view it as a way to protect themselves from getting snared in a secret police effort to catch terrorists.
As a result, one of America’s largest Muslim communities — in a city that’s been attacked twice and targeted more than a dozen times — is caught in a downward spiral of distrust with the nation’s largest police department: The New York City Police Department spies on Muslims, which makes them less likely to trust police. That reinforces the belief that the community is secretive and insular, a belief that current and former NYPD officials have said was one of the key reasons for spying in the first place.