Sahar Aziz writes: In the same week, a Moroccan 29-year-old man was caught attempting to bomb the Capitol in a government-led terrorism sting operation and the NYPD was caught systemically spying on Muslim students at Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers, and other universities on the US east coast. These two seemingly distinct events epitomize the fundamental flaws in the government’s counterterrorism policies.
On the one hand, the government, under both the Bush and Obama administrations, has expended significant resources to conduct “community outreach” meetings with Muslims across the nation. On the other hand, while Muslims are lured into trusting their government, they are systematically spied on, investigated, and sometimes prosecuted.
Millions of dollars are spent flying bureaucrats from various federal agencies to meet and greet Muslim leaders, most of whom are male, in an attempt to earn their trust. In those meetings, local and state law enforcement is invited to build long-term relationships with the Muslim communities in their jurisdictions. On the face of it, the meetings appear to be a good-faith effort to demystify Muslims and counter false stereotypes of Muslims as terrorists. In practice, the objectives are more duplicitous.
In a blatant violation of their trust, local and federal agencies are recording these community outreach meetings, as well as the names and personal information of the attendees. Even Muslim imams who have been engaging with the government for years have found themselves under investigation. Community outreach meetings appear nothing more than a tool within a broader fishing expedition of Muslim communities nationwide. The strategy is that if there is no evidence of terrorism, then the government must go out there and create it through community outreach meetings that set the groundwork for sting operations.
In doing so, the government is alienating its most important ally, the Muslim community, which has been the most effective counter-terrorism tool the government has.