“Being Muslim is apparently the new probable cause,” begins today’s editorial in the Washington Square News, NYU’s student newspaper.
Two Muslim students at Yale began a Feb. 17 op-ed in the Yale Daily News with this:
Since the end of the Jim Crow era, politicians have dressed racism in the rhetoric of food stamps and illegal aliens. But as the past 10 years have shown, it seems that politicians need no such disguise for Islamophobia.
Written by Mostafa Al-Alusi and Faisal Hamid, it was the first in a steady stream of news and opinions from YDN on the news that we’ve been reading since Saturday when the AP broke the story: The NYPD has been spying Muslim college students, for apparently no other reason than that they are young Muslims.
Not surprisingly, student press organs at the schools affected have been reporting non-stop on the fierce opposition to the spying program being expressed by both students and school officials.
In my favorite bit so far, YDN’s Crosscampus blog reported that Yale President Richard Levin had harsh words about the NYPD surveillance program. (“Disturbing,” “‘antithetical’ to the values of the University.”) Then Crosscampus wrote that Mayor Michael Bloomberg had responded with these… um… words:
“If going on websites and looking for information is not what Yale stands for, I don’t know.”
Elegant as always, Mr. Mayor. For his part, Levin was able to string these syllables together:
“The Yale Muslim Students Association has been an important source of support for Yale students during a period when Muslims and Islam itself have too often been the target of thoughtless stereotyping, misplaced fear, and bigotry.”
Columbia President Lee Bollinger and Barnard President Debora Spar both told the Columbia Spectator today they knew nothing about the NYPD’s activities:
“We want to be sure our Muslim community knows that we support everyone’s right to carry on their lives and their studies without the feeling of being watched by a government that exists to protect us all,” Bollinger said.
“We are deeply concerned about any government activity that would chill the freedom of thought or intrude upon student privacy, both of which are so essential to our academic community,” he said.
In an op-ed in the Spec, David Fine (a friend of New Voices and the editor of Columbia’s undergraduate Jewish journal, the Current), called Columbia’s Muslim Student Association “a dynamic group that often organizes some of the more considered and stimulating events on campus.”
Recalling an recent campus event, Fine writes that some Muslim students said things that made him uncomfortable:
I was appalled that a fellow student would hold such views, but I would have been more appalled if that student had left her ideas unexpressed for fear of being filed away as a potential threat by the NYPD. The chilling effect that the surveillance program might have on campus speech would mean that such views would go unsaid, and thus certain ideologies left unexposed for the truly deleterious modes of thinking that they pose
In other words, the NYPD is acting as a danger to academic freedom and to freedom of speech, thought and association.
The Daily Princetonian reported on an official statement by Princeton’s MSA:
“We fear that such actions can lead to the alienation of Muslim-American youth and may cause the return of unethical practice toward minority rights in this country. … The NYPD must be held responsible for violating the trust of its American citizens.”
WSN reported this rather noncommittal response by an NYU spokesman:
“We appreciate that the NYPD has taken on the heavy responsibility of safeguarding New Yorkers from additional terrorist attacks. … We hope that the police department is employing anti-terrorism tactics other than looking at the public websites of student groups, which at a university naturally raises privacy concerns on behalf of its students.”
The Spec also reported that a Muslim Student Association leader has proposed a putting together group of students from MSA, Hillel and other groups to address the issue formally.