In an interview with PBS Newshour last night, former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the Muslim surveillance program that the city implemented after the 9/11 attacks.
“All of the people came from the same place and all that came were from a place they happened to be one religion. And if they’d been another religion, we would’ve done the same thing,” Bloomberg told PBS anchor Judy Woodruff, “It does not, incidentally, mean that all Muslims are terrorists or all terrorists are Muslim. But, the people that flew those airplanes came from the Middle East and some of the imams were urging more of the same.”
Bloomberg’s comments were immediately criticized by a number of Muslim organizations and civil rights groups.
“Today, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was finally required to address the discriminatory surveillance of American Muslims and Arab Americans by the New York Police Department under his tenure,” said Arab American Institute Executive Director Maya Berry in a statement, “As Mayor, Michael Bloomberg surveilled where American Muslims ate, socialized, gathered, prayed and studied. The NYPD literally mapped our communities across three states, causing systemic self-censoring, distrust of any interaction with the government, and untold harm to our communities.”
“This is an insulting attempt to rewrite the history of an unconstitutional surveillance program that left Muslims, particularly in communities of color, devastated,” National Security Project director Hina Shamsi told NPR, “It took brave Muslims and their supporters to go to court before the NYPD finally agreed to reforms to safeguard communities in New York and beyond. And no court ever said that the NYPD’s discriminatory surveillance program under Bloomberg was lawful.”
“In the course of six years, the NYPD’s now-disbanded and incredibly illegal surveillance program of infiltrating and spying on Muslim communities, houses of worship and student clubs, generated zero criminal leads,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad in a statement, “CAIR believes that in addition to costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, the NYPD’s illegal spying program under Bloomberg’s leadership damaged the Muslim community’s trust in law enforcement and made it difficult for the NYPD to maintain open lines of communication.”
Bloomberg has been continually asked about his administration’s Stop & Frisk policy and allegations of workplace sexual harassment, but up until this point the issue of Muslim surveillance has not come up. During this week’s Democratic debate in South Carolina, Intercept columnist Mehdi Hasan tweeted, “The CBS moderators are asking Bloomberg about his policy on sugary drinks and trans fats in New York. They won’t ask him about spying on Muslims in New York. Muslims have less value in the US media than sugary drinks and trans fats.”
The CBS moderators are asking Bloomberg about his policy on sugary drinks and trans fats in New York.
They won't ask him about spying on Muslims in New York.
Muslims have less value in the US media than sugary drinks and trans fats.#DemDebate
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) February 26, 2020