Beliefnet News

By David Finnigan
Religion News Service

LOS ANGELES (RNS) After an angry outcry from Muslim leaders, the Los Angeles Police Department on Wednesday (Nov. 14) canceled plans to create a “mapping” database on local Muslim communities to help pinpoint possible Islamic extremists.
“When they are talking about mapping gang areas, Mafia areas, it’s erroneous to transfer that model and then map a mainstream community,” said Salam Al-Maryati, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council.
“They are mapping criminal areas, and so when they say they want to map us, already they’re treating the Muslim community as suspects, not partners.”
The LAPD’s proposed Muslim mapping became a flashpoint earlier this month after the American Civil Liberties Union and Muslim groups publicly condemned it as a type of racial profiling.
Police officials dropped the plan after initially defending it.
Police Chief William Bratton scheduled a Thursday meeting with local Muslim leaders to ease tensions and open up dialogue.
“We’re seeking to increase the engagement with these communities, not antagonize,” Bratton said in a radio interview. “Mapping has a very positive connotation in policing. Unfortunately it’s equated sometimes with the term `racial profiling.”‘
Muslim leaders said mapping would be especially problematic because ethnicity and religion blend so easily in America, with Muslims and Jews both coming from Iran or Arab Muslims and Arab Christians emigrating from the same predominantly Muslim countries.
“Most Muslims live around non-Muslims,” Al-Maryati said. “There are no Muslim neighborhoods in Southern California.”
Al-Maryati said his office has successfully developed relationships with police agencies, including the FBI, but added that Muslims are afraid of being stereotyped as terrorists.
“Everybody wants to open up in the mosques,” he said, but added, “they don’t want their names and their addresses put on a law enforcement database.”
Copyright 2007 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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