NYPD Shadowed Folks Whose Names Sounded Arab


Wow, it’s been a long time since I posted. And this is a good thing, in the sense that Arab- and Islamophobia are being addressed on big blogs and in real news stories nowadays.

As for novels, it’s just been a while since I’ve read one that had silly stereotypes and misinformation about Arabs. But I’m still reading voraciously, so I’m bound to find something eventually.

But here’s something I didn’t see blogs picking up: the New York police department had a policy of following people who changed their names from Arab-sounding names to “normal” sounding names, and vice versa.

NEW YORK (AP) — Muslims who change their names to sound more traditionally American, as immigrants have done for generations, or who adopt Arabic names as a sign of their faith are often investigated and catalogued in secret New York Police Department intelligence files, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Like other NYPD intelligence programs created in the past decade, this one involved monitoring behavior protected by the First Amendment.

Monitoring name changes illustrates how the threat of terrorism now casts suspicion over what historically has been part of America’s story. For centuries, immigrants have Americanized their names in New York. The Roosevelts were once the van Rosenvelts. Fashion designer Ralph Lauren was born Ralph Lifshitz. Donald Trump’s grandfather changed the family name from Drumpf.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne did not respond to messages left over two days asking about the legal justification for the program and whether it had identified any terrorists.

Early on, police added people with American names to the list so that if details of the program ever leaked out, the department would not be accused of profiling, according to one person briefed on the program.

Whatever an “American name” is. Sheesh.

The NYPD’s rules also prohibit opening investigations based solely on activities protected by the First Amendment. Federal courts have held that people have a right to change their names and, in the case of religious conversion, that right is protected by the First Amendment.

In fact, of those who agreed to talk at all, many said they Americanized their names because they were being harassed or were having problems getting a job and thought a new name would help.


It’s a long article. I recommend it. Surprised it hasn’t gotten more attention.


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Filed under arab, arabic, bigoted idiots, Islamic relations, Our glorious war on terror

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