New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his police commissioner have agreed to settle a federal lawsuit that the Muslim Students Association (MSA)—along with a few other plaintiffs—filed against the New York Police Department in 2012. In its complaint, the MSA charged that the civil rights of Muslims were being violated by the NYPD's use of informants and plainclothes detectives to monitor various Islamic institutions—particularly MSA chapters—in the New York/New Jersey area. The de Blasio settlement explicitly bans police from basing any future law-enforcement investigations on race, ethnicity, or, as in the case of the MSA, religion.
Is this good public policy? Was there any legitimate reason for the police to conduct surveillance on the MSA? To answer these questions, let's recall exactly what the MSA is, and what its foremost objectives are.
Currently the most influential Islamic student organization in North America, the MSA was founded in 1963 by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the ideological forebear of Hamas and al Qaeda. The MSA's purpose, for more than half a century, has been to spread fundamentalist Islamist ideology across the globe. The group's enduring ties to the Brotherhood are demonstrated by the fact that the MSA's organizational "Pledge of Allegiance"—which vows unwavering loyalty to Allah, the Koran, jihad, and martyrdom—is essentially an adaptation of the famous Brotherhood credo: "God is our objective, the Koran is our Constitution, the Prophet is our leader, struggle [jihad] is our way, and death for the sake of God [martyrdom] is the highest of our aspirations."