As part of a recently announced legal settlement with representatives of the Muslim community, the NYPD has agreed to purge materials critical to understanding the threat to New York City from domestic Islamic terrorism. The plaintiffs in Raza v. City of New York and Handschu v. Special Services Division charged that the NYPD had targeted Muslims for surveillance solely because of their religious affiliation. Among other things, the settlement stipulates that the NYPD must remove from its website a comprehensive 2007 report authored by senior analysts Mitchell D. Silber and Arvin Bhatt.
Radicalization in the West identified homegrown Islamic terrorism as the primary extremist threat to New York City. As then-police commissioner Ray Kelly noted in a preface, the report’s aim was to assist policymakers and law enforcement officials around the country by providing a thorough understanding of the danger posed by domestic terrorists. It also sought to help intelligence and law enforcement agencies better understand the radicalization process. Based on a rigorous analysis of almost a dozen jihadist plots across the U.S. and Europe, the report identified the enemy’s ideology on its own terms. The report didn’t say that jihadism had nothing to do with Islam; nor did it suggest that Islam was a “religion of peace.” Its sole concern was assessing the jihadist threat, not undertaking an Islamic exegesis.
From the day the report was released, Muslim groups pounced. “By afternoon, American-Muslim organizations had issued press releases criticizing the report,” Time noted in 2007. “The Council on American-Islamic Relations said it cast suspicion on all U.S. Muslims, even though the report repeatedly stresses that there is no obvious way to profile would-be terrorists.” What did they find so objectionable? According to the complaint filed in Raza, the report provided the “analytic underpinnings” for the NYPD’s Muslim Surveillance Program. The plaintiffs asserted that the program “stigmatizes an entire faith community and invites discrimination. It specifically singles out Muslims for profiling and suspicionless surveillance because of their religious beliefs and practices.” The Raza plaintiffs sought to have the program shut down, arguing that it operated on “a false and unconstitutional premise: that Muslim religious belief and practices are a basis for law enforcement scrutiny.”
Now, the NYPD has agreed not only to remove Silber and Bhatt’s report from its website, but the terms of the settlement also require the NYPD to assert that it does not, has not, and will not rely upon the report to open or extend investigations. Within 24 hours of the settlement, however, events conspired to underscore the danger it potentially presents. In Philadelphia, a self-identified jihadist attempted to assassinate a policeman. Edward Archer fired 13 shots at Officer Jesse Hartnett, striking him with three. Archer reportedly told investigators while in custody that he “follows Allah, and that is the reason he was called upon to do this.” Further, according to Philadelphia police captain Richard Ross, Archer “believed that the police defend laws that are contrary to the teachings of the Quran.” In 2012, Archer allegedly traveled to and spent several months in Egypt. According to his mother, he was a devout Muslim who had practiced the faith for an extended period of time. Despite Archer’s words and actions, and the reports of Philadelphia law enforcement officers involved in the investigation, the city’s mayor declared during a press conference, “In no way, shape or form does anyone in this room believe that Islam or the teaching of Islam has anything to do with what you’ve seen on the screen.”
Tragic as it nearly was, the Philadelphia shooting couldn’t have been timelier. Archer fits the exact profile that Silber and Bhatt sketched in their report—as do most examples in recent memory of American jihadists. Religious ideology is not incidental to jihad; it’s central. For Islamists, jihad is an intrinsic part of a pious Muslim’s religious duties. All Muslims are not jihadists, but all jihadists are self-identified Muslims. Yet, New York mayor Bill de Blasio appears willing to pursue the see-no-Islam policy preferred by Philadelphia’s mayor. And, according to a 2013 report from Judicial Watch, a similar purge of materials linking Islamic ideology to jihad has already occurred at the federal level, with apparently disastrous consequences, given the mushrooming domestic jihadist threat.
More than any other area of government, national security and defense must be insulated from political correctness. To remove analyses that might give us insight into our enemies represents a dereliction of duty by our political representatives. Political correctness can and will get Americans killed. If we are to defeat the threat from Islamic terrorism, we must dispense with euphemisms, take off our blinders, and see our enemy clearly.