November 16th, 2007 02:04 EST
LAPD Abandons Plan to Map Muslims
Police in Los Angeles have abandoned a controversial anti-terrorism plan that would have created a compute database of the city's Muslim population, media here reported Thursday.
Officials with the Los Angeles police department said they had planned to launch the mapping effort to better understand the Muslim community, rather than as a form of profiling or targeting those who practice Islam.
But after the program met widespread opposition, including from Muslim interest groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and other rights organizations, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Wednesday that the plan had been scrapped.
"While I believe the department's efforts to reach out to the Muslim communities were well-intentioned, the mapping proposal has created a level of fear and apprehension that made it counterproductive," the LA mayor was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as having told media here.
According to news reports, the LAPD's counter-terrorism bureau planned to create the database using US census data and other demographic information to pinpoint Muslim communities and then reach out to them through social service agencies.
LA police said they would drop the mapping aspect of the plan but continue efforts to reach out to the Muslim community, in hopes of identifying potential hotbeds of extremism, according to press reports.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was among the groups which slammed program proposed by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) as biased and inflammatory.
"People are concerned on the purposes this will be used for," said Sharif Mourassay of CAIR in a recent statement.
"This mapping project says that Muslims are more prone to violence than any other faith," he said.
"It is ill-advised and deeply offensive, as well as constitutionally questionable. All this does is generate fear and mistrust and looks like you are trying to gather intelligence based on religion and ethnicity," Mourassay said.
About one-half million Muslims are said to live in the Los Angeles area, making it the second largest concentration Muslims after New York, according to the Times.
The reversal comes after a week of protests from Muslim groups and civil libertarians, who equated the mapping with religious profiling.
Richard Winton and Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, 11/15/07
The LAPD on Wednesday abruptly scrapped a program to map the city's Muslim population, a major retreat for a department that said the system was needed to identify potential hotbeds of extremism.
The reversal comes after a week of protests from Muslim groups and civil libertarians, who equated the mapping with religious profiling. Others questioned whether it was possible for the LAPD to accurately map the city's far-flung Muslim community.
Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Michael P. Downing said Wednesday that in the wake of the protests, officials would drop the mapping aspect of the plan but continue their efforts to reach out to the Muslim community. Downing and other police officials plan to outline the new strategy to Muslim American activists at a meeting today.
The decision met with praise from some activists, who said they would welcome greater involvement by the LAPD in their communities as long as mapping was off the table.
"Muslim Americans were very disturbed and concerned about the ramifications of the plan and having their privacy invaded," said Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. "Downing's statement that he's pulling the plan says the LAPD is very open to positive community engagement, input and participation. It's the first step to very healthy dialogue between Muslim Americans and the city of Los Angeles."
The LAPD has not provided details about how it planned to build the Muslim database. But in a document reviewed by The Times last week, the department's counter-terrorism bureau proposed using U.S. census data and other demographic information to pinpoint Muslim communities and then reach out to them through social service agencies.
Originally, the LAPD planned to partner with USC's National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events in building the mapping program. But after details of the effort were made public last week, USC officials said they were carefully studying whether to join the endeavor and stressed that no deal had been made.
During Oct. 30 testimony before Congress, Downing described the plan as an attempt to "mitigate radicalization."
Downing and other law enforcement officials said police agencies around the world are dealing with radical Muslim groups that are isolated from the larger community, creating potential breeding grounds for terrorism. He cited terror cells in Europe as well as the case of some Muslim extremists in New Jersey arrested in May for allegedly planning to bomb Ft. Dix.
But in a statement, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said that "while I believe the department's efforts to reach out to the Muslim communities were well intentioned, the mapping proposal has created a level of fear and apprehension that made it counterproductive."
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