More Security Does Not Require Less Freedom: The Case of the NYPD Surveillance Program

Asma T. Uddin is a Senior Scholar at the Freedom Forum Institute and a 2019 Visiting Scholar at Brigham Young University.

A few years ago, the New York Police Department (NYPD) spied on a wide range of Muslims within a 250-mile radius of New York City, without any probable cause or reasonable suspicion of illegal activity. Leaked NYPD reports plus a series of Pulitzer Prize–winning articles published in 2011 by the Associated Press, revealed how it all worked: the NYPD used census information and government databases to map ethnic neighborhoods in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. The maps at times included groups other than Muslims (for example, Syrian Jews and Egyptian Christians), but the NYPD spied only the Muslims in those neighborhoods.

Undercover agents would infiltrate mosques and religious schools. These agents would sit among the Muslims and listen in on their conversations, sometimes engaging them in conversations of their own, all for the purpose of assessing their religious and political views and reporting them back to the NYPD. Inside the mosques, the agents would record the imam’s sermons and statements by congregants. (more…)

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The Names of Religious Groups and Security-Related Concerns

Dmytro Vovk is Director of the Centre for the Rule of Law and Religion Studies, Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and co-editor of Talk About: Law and Religion.

Among other things the OSCE/ODIHR Freedom of Religion or Belief and Security Policy Guidance focuses on finding a fair balance between the autonomy of religious groups and the requirements of public safety and national security. The guidance document calls these two values “complementary, interdependent and mutually reinforcing objectives that can and must be advanced together.” The autonomy of a religious groups includes the right to self-name. It presupposes that religions may, at their discretion, choose any name for themselves based on their dogmas, canons, and principles. This name unites believers and expresses their shared religious identification. The name may include the institutional form of a religious group (church, movement, society, etc.), the name of the deity, a leader, sacred places or texts, the mission of the group, and so on. (more…)

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Let Freedom of Religion or Belief Pave the Way to Peaceful and Inclusive Societies

Peter Weiderud is Special Envoy for Religion in Conflict and Peace Building at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs  

Listening to the morning news, we might get the impression that religion has grown as a source of violence and conflict. The reported difference between Shia and Sunni can serve as an example. It has been a theological schism for centuries, but before 2003 not necessarily perceived as a “casus belli“. Today, according to the Conflict Data Base at Uppsala University, more than half of the world´s casualties of wars can be found along this rift, primarily in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. However, this does not necessarily mean that it is a religious conflict.

I have had the opportunity over the last 40 years to reflect on the role of religion in conflicts from multiple platforms—as journalist, politician, diplomat, and conflict mediator, but also from peace movements and religious organizations. In my experience, I still have not found any conflict that I would define as entirely religious. The struggles in Northern Ireland, in the Balkans, and between Saudi Arabia and Iran are not purely religious. Not even the Crusades, the Byzantine-Ottoman Wars, or the 30-Years War would qualify, in my view, as purely religious. (more…)

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