An extensive mapping program launched by the LAPD's anti-terrorism bureau to identify Muslim enclaves across the city sparked outrage Thursday from some Islamic groups and civil libertarians, who denounced the effort as an exercise in racial and religious profiling.
Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Michael P. Downing, who heads the bureau, defended the undertaking as a way to help Muslim communities avoid the influence of those who would radicalize Islamic residents and advocate "violent, ideologically-based extremism."
"We are seeking to identify at-risk communities," Downing said in an interview Thursday evening. "We are looking for communities and enclaves based on risk factors that are likely to become isolated. . . . We want to know where the Pakistanis, Iranians and Chechens are so we can reach out to those communities."
Downing added that the Muslim Public Affairs Council has embraced the vaguely defined program "in concept." The group's executive director, Salam Al-Marayati, said Thursday that it wanted to know more about the plan and had a meeting set with the LAPD next week.
"We will work with the LAPD and give them input, while at the same time making sure that people's civil liberties are protected," said Al-Marayati, who commended Downing for being "very forthright in his engagement with the Muslim community."
Others condemned the project, however.
"We certainly reject this idea completely," said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. "This stems basically from this presumption that there is homogenized Muslim terrorism that exists among us."
Syed said he is a member of Police Chief William J. Bratton's forum of religious advisors, but had not been told of the community mapping program. "This came as a jolt to me," Syed said.
Hussam Ayloush, who leads the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the mapping "basically turns the LAPD officers into religious political analysts, while their role is to fight crime and enforce the laws." (MORE)