There has been much debate over the past few weeks surrounding the University and a New York Police Department counter-terrorism surveillance program that targeted Muslim student groups and organizations across the Northeast. Unsurprisingly, much of the debate has been critical of the program with the typical baseless accusations flung at the NYPD that they acted in a racist manner. People have called for an investigation of the NYPD and for Commissioner Ray Kelly to resign. I, on the other hand, stand with the 58 percent of New Yorkers, according to a Quinnipiac University survey, who agree that the NYPD acts appropriately when dealing with the Muslim community and the 82 percent who believe they have been effective at combating terrorism. I applaud their efforts to keep University students and the Northeast safe from radical Islam, which poses a threat to the Muslim and non-Muslim community alike.
While facts about the NYPD surveillance program still trickle out, there is little debate that the program saved lives and protected millions. What is surprising to me is the fact that any person criticizes the NYPD's techniques that helped thwart 14 known terrorist attacks in New York City since 9/11. At the University in particular, a program like this is not only necessary but should be welcomed with open arms. If the University took action on its own to stop violent rhetoric and questionable associations from school employees and various students, the NYPD could have steered clear of New Brunswick. The NYPD's largest mistake was their failure to monitor radical non-Muslims at the University as well.
Think about the last three years at the University for a moment. The Rutgers University Student Assembly voted in 2009 to grant the charity meal swipe program to the Palestine Children's Relief Fund. This organization has financial affiliations to the Holy Land Foundation, the largest Islamic charity in the United States, which was shut down and its leaders charged with funneling millions of dollars to terrorist organizations. In the same year it was discovered that the University's Center for Middle Eastern Studies received more than $350,000 from the Alavi Foundation, an Iranian organization whose assets were seized after it was discovered they had direct ties to the Iranian government.
University officials told BAKA: Students United for Middle Eastern Justice in 2010 that they could not use funds raised from an event to support a flotilla to the Gaza Strip.
While these events over the past few years may seem startling and the media generally ignores them, they are only a few that have taken place at the University. Part of that history is the unfortunate fact that one of the orchestrators of the first World Trade Center bombing, Nidal Ayyad, is a University alumnus who studied chemical explosives as part of his instruction in the engineering program.
This is not an attempt to justify the NYPD's actions. I am merely stating why it is both important and necessary to continue such surveillance programs and extend them beyond the realm of Islam. The NYPD and all law enforcement have an obligation to protect the lives of the general population. Have they made mistakes? Sure, everyone makes mistakes. But a surveillance program looking to stop acts of terrorism is not an attack on Islam — it's the exact opposite. The NYPD takes part in programs like this to protect entire communities, including the Muslim community. This wasn't an attempt to label all Muslims terrorists, but to find terrorists hiding under the mask of Islam and bring them to justice. This program did just that — it uncovered terrorism and protected people regardless of faith. It takes a lot for police officers to put their lives on the line to protect people they have never met and they should be applauded for their courage, not condemned.
Aaron Marcus is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in political science with a minor in history. His column, "Marcus My Words," runs alternate Tuesdays.