Commentary Magazine


Sacrificing Security for Mythical Backlash

After the Boston Marathon bombing there were questions as to how the FBI missed the threat from the Tsarnaev brothers despite warnings from the Russian security services about Chechen extremists. But just as alarming were the reports that the elder of the two terrorists had become an advocate of extremism within his mosque, creating scenes that scared and alienated fellow congregants. That story brought to mind the beating the New York City Police Department has taken in the last two years after it was revealed that the cops were devoting resources to monitor suspicious activities at local mosques that might be gathering places for terrorists. But instead of the example of the failure of Boston-area police to pick up on signs that the Tsarnaevs might be dangerous serving to bolster support for NYPD policies, the department finds itself under siege for seeking to do its job.

The New York Times issued another broadside against the NYPD today which expresses support for a lawsuit brought against the police in federal court for surveillance of Muslim sites. Like the attack on the department for its stop and frisk policy, the decision of the Times and other liberals to go all in on efforts to halt scrutiny of places where terror may be advocated approaches the issue with little concern for the safety of New Yorkers or for the Constitution. The NYPD’s actions are not only constitutional but also, as the Boston case illustrated, necessary. Just as important, the lawsuit seems rooted in the notion of a mythical post-9/11 backlash that remains unproven except in the minds of the liberal media and groups that purport to represent Muslims.

Contrary to the Times, these measures do not inspire “suspicion and distrust.” Instead, they are quite rational reactions to an unfortunate rash of religion-based terrorism in this country that can be traced directly back to a brand of extremist Islam. Try as they might, critics of the NYPD cannot pretend that a strain of Islamist practitioners has promoted hatred of the West and the United States. All too often, the United States has paid for its indifference to these terror promoters in the blood of its citizens as organized groups and loan wolves threaten mayhem.

It should be specified, as Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has often said, that the overwhelming majority of American Muslims are loyal and hardworking citizens. But asking the police to ignore major sources of terror in the name of restoring the country to its September 10, 2001 mindset is a recipe for potential disaster.

Kelly is absolutely right to dismiss criticisms of his anti-terror policies. The critics of the department have failed to prove that the investigations of some mosques have in any way hindered the First Amendment rights to freedom of religion of the congregants. What they have done is made it harder for extremists to hijack religious institutions for criminal purposes.

It is to be hoped that the courts will uphold the NYPD’s decisions, but the cumulative weight of efforts to curb the necessary scrutiny of terror on our home shores may yet overwhelm the efforts of those who have taken the responsibility to prevent such crimes. In this case the sympathies of the courts, as well as those of the American people, should be with those who are seeking to defend America, not those who are trying to stop them from doing their jobs.