Increased Surveillance Based on Faith Will Not Make Our Nation Safer

Increased Surveillance Based on Faith Will Not Make Our Nation Safer

Public Officials Must Reject Adopting Ineffective, Discriminatory Practices

In the wake of the Paris attacks, a chorus of public voices—including U.S. Representative Peter King (R-NY), CIA Director John Brennan and Donald Trump—are once again calling for increased surveillance of Americans, with a focus on Muslim communities. Such a call is not only wrong and contrary to American values, but it undermines our safety. Blanket surveillance based on individuals’ faith does not work and will not make our country safer.

All Americans want to be kept safe from acts of violence, whatever the source and we are concerned that public officials are exploiting the Paris tragedy to further their own political agenda. The evidence shows that increased surveillance based on individuals’ faith is not the answer.

An Associated Press investigation into the activities of a now-disbanded unit dedicated to spying on American Muslims within the New York Police Department (NYPD) revealed that it failed to produce a single lead or terrorism case. Instead, it has increased distrust between the police and the communities they serve. This lack of trust harms the relationship between law enforcement and Muslim communities—the same communities that law enforcement is sworn to protect and serve.

Recent reports suggest that the common thread among Americans attracted to violent extremism is not religion, but vulnerable young people, without ties to places of worship or other community institutions, who often suffer from mental illness and whose capacity for mass violence is not detectable by family and friends.

Muslim Advocates filed a lawsuit in federal court, Hassan v. City of New York, to challenge the NYPD’s discriminatory Muslim spying program. This fall, in a historic civil rights ruling, a federal appeals court agreed on the simple premise that law enforcement cannot spy on people based on their faith. The case will now move to trial.

Together, with faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and other allies, Muslim Advocates will continue to challenge blanket, suspicionless surveillance. We urge public officials to heed the federal appeals court admonishment and reject ineffective, discriminatory policies and practices.


Debayani Kar, Muslim Advocates, (510) 356-7733, [email protected]


Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization working on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths. Through high impact lawsuits, policy advocacy, and community education, Muslim Advocates serves as a resource to empower communities and ensures that the American Muslim community is heard by the courts and leaders at the highest level of government. Visit Muslim Advocates at and follow @muslimadvocates.