With the deepening trust deficit between the American Muslim community—especially in the New York area—and law enforcement, how can figures of authority effectively engage with Muslims?

Figures of authority should stop falsely pitting our security interests against civil liberties. Certainly, there has been a noticeable shift in rhetoric in national security discourse; however, law enforcement policies continue to disproportionately impact and subsequently destroy lives and trust amongst communities of color. To be clear, affected community members are pro law-enforcement but anti-police misconduct. Yet, the trust deficit deepens as leaked documents detailing warrantless, wholesale NYPD surveillance of law-abiding Muslims in New York City and the tri-state.

How can we continue to encourage partnership with a police force that has categorically deemed every aspect of Muslim public life a threat? Profiling entire communities based on religion and race sans any criminal suspicion wastes valuable law enforcement resources. Who is watching the watchmen? We must answer this question to begin rebuilding trust. Indeed, there must be a transparent and independent oversight of the NYPD.

How should American Muslims practice their faith and live their lives in light of these events?

From Rosa Parks to Malcolm X, history teaches us that you can't advance freedom by keeping silent. Our faith teaches us to spring to action when we witness an injustice. In his timeless wisdom, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) said, "Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart—and that is the weakest of faith." As such, my advice to American Muslims, particularly students and young people who have started to step up, is to keep on keepin' on. Continue to speak truth to power and demand that the right to privacy and freedom to worship (however one chooses) is upheld for all communities.

Do you feel comfortable living your life as a Muslim in America?

Given the current political climate, living life as a Muslim in America has its challenges. However, I'm optimistic that the tide will turn as the community continues to work with partners and allies and explore ways to build political power. I also find comfort in the increasing number of artists who share their stories and in the process help humanize American Muslim communities.


With the deepening trust deficit between the American Muslim community—especially in the New York area—and law enforcement, how can figures of authority effectively engage with Muslims?

The burden now lies on law enforcement and NYPD to proactively invest in creating a healthy, positive, and reciprocal relationship with American Muslim communities based on trust and mutual respect. The trust deficit has been widened due to the harmful and misguided policies of law enforcement in seeing their Muslim neighbors and community members as perpetual suspects instead of partners and allies. Mayor Bloomberg's smug, arrogant grandstanding and uncritical defense of the NYPD's unwarranted surveillance do not inspire confidence that the NYPD will change, let alone even acknowledge, its deeply harmful practices against American Muslim communities.

American Muslim communities need to be publicly acknowledged as human beings and not circus monkeys whose sole value, worth and utility lies in their ability to eradicate extremism, even when it's nonexistent in their communities and personal lives. American Muslims need to be addressed as valuable members of the community who not only have rights and liberties, but also valuable talents that continue to benefit and elevate local and national communities across America. Furthermore, there needs to be an audit of law enforcement personnel, practices and training manuals to ensure ineffectual and harmful procedures are eradicated—such as baseless spying without reasonable suspicion and racial and religious profiling—to ensure our limited resources are best spent on healthy and productive national security measures. Also, there needs to be a thorough, independent and critical oversight and a regulation of law enforcement to ensure their vast, broad powers are not abused at the expense of minority communities' rights and freedoms. The question now is, "Who watches the Watchmen?"

How should American Muslims practice their faith and live their lives in light of these events?

If we silence our voices and voluntarily abdicate our constitutionally protected rights and freedoms, then we, as communities, slink into antiquity and extinction, and the nation risks betraying those core values and beliefs that make us fundamentally American. So, American Muslims need to respond with courage and conviction instead of reacting with fear, hysteria and trepidation. We should practice our faith proudly and openly and continue onward and upward just like we have been doing for decades. We have resources at our disposal, including the US constitution and the legal system, to ensure we inspire America to live up to its ideals that it promises and force her to defend it for those citizens who are currently marginalized.

Do you feel comfortable living your life as a Muslim in America?

I've lived 31 years as an American Muslim. I don't know how to live any other way. I am both Muslim and American. Both identities have existed comfortably housed in one body and one name since I was born. The multi-hyphenated identity flourishes in the multicultural laboratory of the world known as America. The values of Islam and American, as enshrined in the Constitution, overlap harmoniously within me without civilizational conflict. Do I cleave myself in half and separate my Islam from my American-ness? I don't think it's humanly possible, right? So, yes, I do feel comfortable living my life as an American Muslim and I have faith that this country will find its moral compass—it always does even though it loses its way time to time.