Religious liberty and NYPD spying on Muslims

The Associated Press has continued to expose the broad sweep of the New York Police Department's spying on Muslims - not only in New York City but, as The AP now reports, elsewhere in the Northeast. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly have said police are just following leads. "We dont stop to think about the religion," Bloomberg said in August. " We stop to think about the threats and focus our efforts there." But, as the excellent investigative news Web site ProPublica notes, newly disclosed documents show that's not the case.One can understand why the NYPD sees a need to go beyond the surveillance local police typically do; federal authorities shamefully failed to protect the city against terrorism in the past, so Kelly has tried to fill the void. Before you draw a conclusion one way or the other, I suggest that you peruse a 60-page internal NYPD report that the AP uncovered. In it, intelligence officers catalog just about anything remotely Muslim in the city of Newark, N.J.Are you comfortable with this? There has been much discussion on dotCommonweal and elsewhere about freedom of religion for Catholics. Is religious liberty an issue here? Or should we say this is to be expected and focus solely on our own liberties?Just asking.

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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