[R-G] Protest Greets Police Plan to Map Muslim Angelenos
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Fri Nov 9 15:35:38 MST 2007
November 9, 2007
Protest Greets Police Plan to Map Muslim Angelenos
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
A plan by the counterterrorism bureau of the Los Angeles Police
Department to create a map detailing the Muslim communities in that
city, an effort described as a step toward thwarting radicalization,
has angered civil rights groups, which say it is no better than racial
At least three major Muslim groups and the American Civil Liberties
Union sent a letter yesterday to top city officials raising concerns
about the plan.
"When the starting point for a police investigation is 'let's look at
all Muslims,' we are going down a dangerous road," Peter Bibring, a
lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Southern California, said in an interview.
"Police can and should be engaged with the communities they are
policing, but that engagement can't be a mask for intelligence
The objections started after Michael P. Downing, a deputy Los Angeles
police chief who heads the counterterrorism bureau, testified before a
United States Senate committee on Oct. 30 that the Police Department
was combining forces with an unidentified academic institution and
looking for a Muslim partner to carry out the mapping project. He
emphasized that he wanted the process to be transparent.
In his testimony, to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Committee, Mr. Downing said the project would determine the geographic
distribution of Muslims in the sprawling Los Angeles area and take "a
look at their history, demographics, language, culture, ethnic
breakdown, socioeconomic status and social interactions."
The idea, Mr. Downing said in an interview yesterday, would be to
determine which communities might be having problems integrating into
the larger society and thus might have members susceptible to carrying
out attacks, much like domestic cells in England and elsewhere in
"There are people out there who believe in extreme violent ideology
who present a threat to the American people, and that is what we are
trying to prevent," he said. "This could be called another prevention
The civil rights groups argue that contrary to what has been found in
Europe, the scattered cases exposed in the United States have involved
individuals with no clear ties to international terrorism groups.
The estimated 500,000 Muslims living in the greater Los Angeles area,
including Orange and Riverside Counties, make its concentration of
Muslims the second largest in the United States, after New York
Not all Muslim groups in the area object to Mr. Downing's idea.
"There has been a lot of discussion on the issue of ghettoization and
counterghettoization," said Salam al-Marayati, executive director of
the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which is considering being the
Police Department's partner in the project. Mr. Marayati said his
group supported anything that would help integration as long as it
safeguarded civil liberties.
Among those interviewed, whatever their position on the project, Mr.
Downing rated high marks for his community policing efforts, and the
letter to city officials suggested that the groups opposed to his idea
meet with him to discuss it. Those signing the letter included Muslim
Advocates, a national association of Muslim lawyers, and the Islamic
Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella organization for
The groups were particularly angered that in his Senate testimony, Mr.
Downing, discussing the possibility of Muslims' radicalization, seemed
to suggest looking at factors like exposure to the puritanical
teachings of the Wahhabi sect, instability in countries of origin and
where they get their news. He also suggested that the study would
result in helping amplify the voice of Muslim moderates who could
"Who is going to decide who are the moderates?" said Hussam Ayloush,
executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations for
the Los Angeles area, who also signed the letter. "Are Muslims who
criticize the war in Iraq moderate?"
The groups' letter coincided with the release yesterday by Mayor
Antonio R. Villaraigosa and other city and law enforcement officials
of an F.B.I. report that Al Qaeda might be planning to strike at
shopping malls in Los Angeles and Chicago during the Christmas season.
But the F.B.I. report itself characterized the information as
The groups involved in protesting the mapping plan said any threat
from Al Qaeda, even a tenuous one, underscored their point that
limited police resources should be directed at investigating real
crimes rather than at what they characterized as treating the entire
Muslim community with suspicion.
"Al Qaeda has always operated outside the United States," Mr. Ayloush
said, "and has miserably failed to gain any support or sympathy among
the American Muslim population."
Michael Parrish contributed reporting from Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Police Plan to Map Muslims
4 hours ago
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Civil rights advocates criticized plans by the Los
Angeles Police Department to map the city's Muslim communities,
calling it racial profiling.
The LAPD's counterterrorism bureau plans to identify Muslim enclaves
in order to determine which might be likely to become isolated and
susceptible to "violent, ideologically based extremism," said Deputy
Chief Michael P. Downing on Thursday.
"We want to know where the Pakistanis, Iranians and Chechens are so we
can reach out to those communities," said Downing, who heads the
Downing said the plan is still in its early stages, but the LAPD wants
to work with a Muslim partner and intends to have the data assembled
by the University of Southern California's Center for Risk and
Downing testified about the plan before a U.S. Senate committee on Oct. 30.
In his testimony, Downing said his bureau wanted to "take a deeper
look at the history, demographics, language, culture, ethnic
breakdown, socioeconomic status and social interactions" of the city's
There are an estimated 500,000 Muslims in Los Angeles, Orange and
On Thursday, several Muslim groups and the American Civil Liberties
Union of Southern California sent Downing a letter expressing "grave
concerns" about the program.
"Singling out individuals for investigation, surveillance, and
data-gathering based on their religion constitutes religious profiling
that is just as unlawful, ill-advised and deeply offensive as racial
profiling," said the letter.
It was signed by representatives of the ACLU of Southern California;
Muslim Advocates, a national association of Muslim lawyers; the
Islamic Shura Council of Southern California and the Council on
The plan "basically turns the LAPD officers into religious political
analysts, while their role is to fight crime and enforce the laws,"
said Hussam Ayloush, head of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on
American-Islamic Relations, who signed the letter.
However, another group, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, is
considering working with the LAPD on the project.
"We will work with the LAPD and give them input, while at the same
time making sure that people's civil liberties are protected," said
Salam al-Marayati, the council's executive director.
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