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Why do Muslim American organisations still support the police?

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14.08.2020

Since the August 2014 murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and certainly, since the recent killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, discussions around the destructive nature of American law enforcement have gone mainstream. Even city councils have echoed calls to defund the police - an idea widely deemed impractical only a few months ago.

Despite these developments, conversations within much of the non-Black Muslim community in the United States continue to reflect an overreliance on and a deferential attitude towards the police. Leaders of multiple American Muslim institutions appear more concerned with protecting their delicate relationships with law enforcement than allying with subjugated communities protesting state violence.

This was most recently exemplified by the popular scholar and imam, Yasir Qadhi of the East Plano Islamic Center, who held a virtual talk on June 16 with Plano Police Chief Ed Drain in a spectacular display of tone-deafness. The event proceeded despite strong local and national criticism from Muslims, outraged by the video capturing the gruesome and slow police murder of George Floyd in broad daylight.

As a liberation movement ripped across the country, catalysed by widespread calls to abolish the police and increasingly brutal displays of violence against protesters, Qadhi bent over backwards to amplify the voice of a police chief.

This callous decision was further exacerbated by the actual content of the interview, which was essentially an hour-long police propaganda session on a mosque platform. Not only did Qadhi fail to offer a meaningful critique of police violence and murder, his meek performance featured only a few remarks - most notably to praise Drain for his "dedication", "thorough answers", and "stellar resume". The police chief himself used the event to justify the use of tear gas against anti-racist protesters and recruit Muslims to sign up as members of the police force.

Qadhi's interview showcases an undue trust of law enforcement shared by many Muslims in the US. More disturbingly, it reveals how Muslim Americans - primarily those of privileged-class backgrounds - have internalised the logic of the national security state, which classifies us at once as enemies of the state but also as potential recruits to police the "threatening" segments within our community.

There are several other examples across the country that highlight the problematic relationships between Muslims and the police. In Brooklyn, New York, Muslims established the Muslim Community Patrol (MCP) in the aftermath of the Christchurch Massacre in 2019. The MCP presents itself as an "extra set of eyes and ears for the police", working to protect the community - a questionable positioning considering the police department's criminalisation of the Muslim community.

Since at least 2002, the New York Police Department (NYPD) has "singled out Muslim religious and community leaders, mosques, student associations, organizations, businesses, and individuals for "pervasive surveillance". These measures include infiltrating Muslim spaces with police informants to track community leaders.

Although it is understandable that Muslims want to protect their........

© Al Jazeera


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