New York’s Muslim population will soon be seeing a new kind of patrol car on their streets. It looks just like an official NYC police cruiser, complete with all the police decals and lights at the top. The only difference is that they aren’t police at all despite the lookalike patrol cars and the strangely official-looking uniforms.
They call themselves the “Muslim Community Patrol & Services” (MCPS), and it’s Vice-President Noor Rabah describes it as “like a neighborhood watch but on steroids.”
According to the New York Times, the Muslim Community Patrol has thirty members and a soon to be fleet of five patrol cars that look like official NYPD cruisers in almost every way. However, the MCPS will have no official law enforcement abilities.
Their duties involve watching over the Muslim Community from people who may seek to do harm to Muslims within the Brooklyn area.
The NTY told the story of one member who joined after “Punish a Muslim Day” saw a number of anti-Muslim events happen in England:
“That just boiled inside of me,” said Mr. Ali, 38, who moved to the United States from Yemen in 1990. “That’s when I said to myself that it was really important to come out and protect Muslims in the community.”
He added, “I have to stand up.”
Leaders of the MCPS told the Times that the group is “self-funded and used donations to purchase the cars and navy blue uniforms for its members,” who then go out and patrol Muslim areas in shifts to patrol Islamic schools and mosques. However, the group says that its services aren’t just available to Muslims, but to anyone.
“We know our place: We are not cops,” said Rabah. “We are simply patrollers for the community that also serve as the eyes and ears for the N.Y.P.D.”
But for many, including those in the Muslim community, they are an alarming presence.
Somia Elrowmeim, of the Arab American Association of New York said very bluntly and very clearly: “We don’t want you near our community.”
Elrowmeim is concerned that one misstep from the MCPS could reflect poorly on the entire Muslim community, and she has every reason to fear. Other Muslim community patrols exist overseas, and they have acted more as a Sharia enforcement gang than helpful community patrols.
Incidents include one in Vienna from one of these “Sharia patrols” where a father was beaten for defending his daughter and wife from them. Another three men from these patrol groups in London were jailed for terrorising a couple for holding hands and assaulting people who were drinking.
Community members were so worried about this New York patrol that the NYPD had to gather the members of the MCPS to give them guidelines on what they can and can’t do, which is almost everything when it comes to law enforcement. The general advice was to follow the law and call the real police if a situation arises.
The New York Times suggested, however, that all the paranoia around the MCPS has more to do with “far-right” conspiracy theories and travel bans:
But in a world where far-right conspiracy theories have inspired terror plots against an Islamic enclave in upstate New York, and a travel ban has blocked residents of predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, nothing, it seems, is that simple.
Racism and Republicans aren’t to blame for the uneasiness many feel about such a “community watch” patrolling around the city in cars and uniforms that look stunningly close to NYPD law enforcement. It’s the fact that humanity watches for patterns, and patterns show that religious patrols usually don’t end up with good results.