This piece originally appeared at The Guardian.
In the current moment of mounting anti-Muslim sentiment nationwide and misguided calls from some politicians for a security crackdown on Muslims, there is some welcome news: the New York police department has agreed to reforms that prohibit the discriminatory surveillance of Muslim communities.
Five years ago, news broke that the NYPD was engaged in an expansive domestic spying operation targeting American Muslim communities for surveillance, mapping and infiltration. Two lawsuits were filed in the New York federal courts in response to these practices and in defense New York City Muslims’ – and all minority communities’ – right to equal treatment and religious freedom.
On Thursday, both lawsuits were settled. If approved by the courts, the settlement would reinforce existing safeguards on surveillance of political and religious activities, create new ones and embed civilian oversight within the NYPD.
We hope the principles reflected in the settlement will not just ensure bias-free and effective policing by the NYPD, but will also serve as guideposts in the current security and civil liberties debates. To our clients and their communities, the news stories five years ago – which culminated in a Pulitzer prize for the Associated Press – were not a revelation, but confirmation of what they had known or suspected for years.
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