An embrace of profiling

Zareena Grewal reflects on the legacy of 9/11.
Zareena Grewal
Zareena Grewal

By Zareena Grewal
Associate professor American studies; ethnicity, race, and migration; and religious studies, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

In 2001, the New York City Police Department established a secret surveillance program that mapped and monitored American Muslims’ lives throughout New York City, and in neighboring states, including Connecticut. In 2011, journalists leaked internal NYPD documents which led to an outcry from public officials, activists, and American Muslim leaders who protested that such racial and religious profiling was not only an example of ineffective policing and wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars, but it collectively criminalized American Muslims. The leaked documents revealed that Yale’s Muslim Students Association was among the campus chapters targeted.

Muslim Americans have long been treated as a racialized, suspect population; the racism, political pressure, hyper-scrutiny, and state surveillance American Muslims have faced intensified after Sept. 11, but it was not produced by it. Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, there was a growing political consensus on the right and the left that racial profiling was an inefficient, ineffective, and unfair policy — in fact, at a campaign event in Dearborn, Michigan in 1999, then presidential candidate George W. Bush promised Muslim Arab Americans he would roll back the profiling of Muslims if elected.

After Sept. 11, the national consensus flipped, with most conservatives and liberals embracing the profiling of Muslims in the name of national security and supporting wars of vengeance in Afghanistan and Iraq. We mourn those murdered on Sept. 11, 2001. In order to heal, we must also mourn the more than 929,000 killed in wars worldwide in the name of “collective punishment.”

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