Sahar F. Aziz, Associate Professor of Law and Texas Wesleyan School of Law, encouraged the Justice Department to open an investigation into the NYPD during a DOJ-sponsored conference on post-Sept. 11 discrimination on Wednesday.
While she knew “full well that it’s a difficult ask,” Aziz said that an investigation using the Civil Rights Division’s power under Title Six of the Civil Rights Act was necessary.
“There’s been a lot of articles that have come out recently which have really rattled the community,” Aziz said, acknowledging AP’s breaking of, and extensive reporting on the issue.
Speaking with reporters after the panel, Aziz acknowledged that a Title Six investigation would be “challenging.” The provision allows bans on any entity which receives federal funding from discriminating on account of race, national origin and color.
“Now what’s obviously missing is religion. But I think one can argue that, for example the selective targeting of Mosques and Muslim student associations and bookstores — it is religion, but it’s also race and religion,” Aziz said. “They’re Arabs, they’re Pakistanis, they’re South Asians. I think there is certainly a case that can be made that anti-discrimination provisions has been violated by the local police departments.”
“So what you can do is essentially cut off the funding,” Aziz said. “So that’s not necessarily taking them to court for civil rights violations, that’s just denying them funding, which is effective.”
The question, said Aziz, is whether police have been systemically violating civil rights by surveilling and investigating people only based on how often someone prays or goes to the mosque when there’s no connection to illegal activity.
“So we have to decide, do we think the First Amendment is just as important as the Fourth and the Fifth Amendment? I hope the answer is yes. We don’t want this chilling effect where, in other words, the mosque is no longer a place for freedom of religion and you can’t go to the bookstore without worrying that you’ve got a FBI agent or a NYPD agent or a police officer trailing you,” Aziz said.
“I understand that it is a very difficult request. It’s very difficult for one law enforcement agency to go and investigate another law enforcement agency,” Aziz said.