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NYCLU Reacts To Cornell University’s “Fear Factor” Report

The New York Civil Liberties Union is concerned but not surprised about findings released today by Cornell University about Americans’ views on terrorism. Times of great fear can create anti-civil liberties positions that are inconsistent with our democratic ideals and philosophy.

But the Bush administration should take these findings from Cornell University as a wake-up call that its policies and practices in the war on terrorism are creating a climate of ethnic and religious hostility. Time and again, administration officials have claimed that the rounding up and interrogation of Arabs and Muslim individuals was not based on ethnic and religious profiling. But when a sizable minority of a national survey reportedly believes it is okay to curtail the Constitutional rights of a particular group in order to fight terrorism, clearly the government is doing something wrong.

America is a nation of immigrants, many of whom in the past were targets of suspicion because of who they were rather than for what they did. Our history should help us understand what’s wrong with ethnic and religious profiling. It’s bad law enforcement and it serves to alienate law-abiding people from the police.

From the Cornell University release:

ITHACA, N.Y. — In a study to determine how much the public fears terrorism, almost half of respondents polled nationally said they believe the U.S. government should — in some way — curtail civil liberties for Muslim Americans, according to a new survey released today (Dec. 17) by Cornell University.
About 27 percent of respondents said that all Muslim Americans should be required to register their location with the federal government, and 26 percent said they think that mosques should be closely monitored by U.S. law enforcement agencies. Twenty-nine percent agreed that undercover law enforcement agents should infiltrate Muslim civic and volunteer organizations, in order to keep tabs on their activities and fund raising. About 22 percent said the federal government should profile citizens as potential threats based on the fact that they are Muslim or have Middle Eastern heritage. In all, about 44 percent said they believe that some curtailment of civil liberties is necessary for Muslim Americans.

Conversely, 48 percent of respondents nationally said they do not believe that civil liberties for Muslim Americans should be restricted.

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