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ON THE FRONT LINES: Bloomberg’s Muslim surveillance disqualifies him from office

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Former Mayor of New York City Michael R. Bloomberg is third in recent polls. For those who do not keep up with politics, Bloomberg’s steady rise should be incredibly concerning. 

Some quick background information: Bloomberg only joined the already crowded presidential race in late November, announcing his campaign much later than the rest of the candidates.

Some of the things that many people have highlighted about Bloomberg, include his obscene spending on advertising, the way he conducts advertising in general, his history of stop-and-frisk policies and how he is essentially threatening democracy in so many ways. 

I cannot fit everything wrong with Bloomberg in only one article, so I will try to narrow down this article to one glaring issue with Bloomberg that should be further discussed — his policies of increased surveillance of Muslim Americans. 

As esteemed journalist Mehdi Hasan pointed out, the conversations surrounding Bloomberg’s problematic acts as mayor are mainly about his racist stop-and-frisk policies, and have little to do with Bloomberg’s policies on increased Muslim surveillance.

We should continue talking about these horrible stop-and-frisk policies and how they seriously impacted many individuals of color. As journalist Benjamin Dixon recently uncovered, Bloomberg justified stop-and-frisk by saying “Ninety-five percent of your murders and murderers and murder victims fit one MO. You can just take the description, xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities, 15 to 25.” 

But we also need to add to this conversation by discussing how Bloomberg oversaw the increased surveillance of Muslim Americans and how this impacted many Arab and Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey post-9/11. 

There is countless evidence that Bloomberg aided in this surveillance. In a series of Pulitzer Prize winning articles, the New York Police Department (NYPD) and CIA were working together to spy on Muslims, according to the Associated Press. This spying included, but was not limited to “mosque crawlers,” people that were paid to go to mosques, and see if there were any “radical” ideas being spread. 

The NYPD’S surveillance was “based on a false and unconstitutional premise: that Muslim religious belief and practices are a basis for law enforcement scrutiny,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The NYPD mapped out places where Muslims lived, prayed and worked, according to the ACLU.

It is even more concerning that this surveillance happened right here in New Jersey. In fact, there were NYPD headquarters in New Brunswick to increase surveillance on Muslim individuals around this area. 

There are so many great and well-researched articles that expose Bloomberg-approved, warrantless surveillance of Muslims that I urge everyone to take a look at. 

Historically, Muslim American interests are never properly represented in politics, so it comes as no surprise that many are silent and uncritical in the face of this. 

I cannot say that many Muslims were surprised when the conversations surrounding Bloomberg did not include this islamophobia. But even if we were not surprised, that does not mean we are not hurt or disappointed. 

Although Hasan did an excellent job bringing light to the story, his article questions why Bloomberg did not apologize for his surveillance of Muslims, but did apologize for stop-and-frisk. Honestly, I do not care for an apology from Bloomberg, because I know that will not accomplish anything. 

Rather, I want my professors and friends to talk about this. I want scholars and activists to talk about this. I do not want to feel like Muslims are the only ones who are concerned or worried about having a man like this in office. 

I challenge everyone who discusses Bloomberg to further their discussions by including these islamophobic surveillances in their conversations. 

There is a large Muslim community at Rutgers and we need to remember that when we vote this fall. It should not be a radical idea to suggest that religious minorities like Muslims should feel safe in their own spaces. 

We should all be extremely critical when examining Bloomberg as a candidate. We should be aware of his history of stop-and-frisk, excessive use of money on advertising, how he is buying his way into the election and how there are many examples of him hanging out with President Donald J. Trump. 

But more than anything, we should force people to at least begin the discussion on his very harmful treatment of Muslim Americans. 

Ameena Qobrtay is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in women’s and gender studies and journalism and media studies, and minoring in political science. She is the Features editor for The Daily Targum.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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