Written Testimony of The Rev. Chloe Breyer, regarding Hearing on “Willful Blindness—The Consequences of Agency Efforts to De-Emphasize Radical Islam in Combatting Terrorism”

July 1st,2016 ICNY Latest News

Written Testimony of The Rev. Chloe Breyer

Executive Director, The Interfaith Center of New York

Hearing on “Willful Blindness—The Consequences of Agency Efforts to De-Emphasize Radical Islam in Combatting Terrorism”


June 28, 2016

On June 13, 2016 following the Orlando massacre, The Interfaith Center of New York like so many other institutions and faith communities issued a public statement. We conveyed our solidarity with the families of the victims and LGBT communities in Florida; our gratitude to the: EMT’s, Fire Fighters, Police, and fellow citizens; our condemnation of this horrific act of mass murder and ISIS’ barbaric ideology that helped inspire it; and, most importantly, our conviction that hate is not the answer to hate, nor is Islamophobia the answer to homophobia.

Unfortunately this last conviction—that more hate is not the answer to hate–does not appear to be a belief shared by the politicians who have mastermind today’s hearing. As an organization that for twenty years has been seeking to promote vibrant democracy and safe communities through interfaith coalitions to tackle shared concerns, The Interfaith Center of New York deplores today’s use of tax-payers dollars. By further fanning the flames of Islamaphobia and the use of terminology that makes it easier to demonize an entire faith tradition than correctly identify a deadly group of individuals who abuse it, this hearing sets the safety of our country back rather than pushing it forward.

The Interfaith Center of New York has been instrumental in strengthening the diverse religious communities of New York City based on our embrace of a deep-seated American value—E Pluribus Unum—“Out of Many, One.” Founded in 1997 by the Very Rev. James Parks Morton, ICNY has grown over time to become a nationally-recognized non-profit organization that catalyzes partnerships among grassroots and immigrant religious leaders and civic officials to address New York’s most pressing social problems.

As an organization that is devoted to religious diversity and respecting the sanctity of all religions in New York City, we have seen in the fallout of the Associated Press revelations in 2011[1] as an example of what happens when the rights of religious freedom are violated through unwarranted surveillance—in this case by the NYPD. NYPD operations ranged from spying on mosques to sending undercover agents into Muslim Student Associations on college campuses. Already difficult relations between the Muslim communities of New York and NYPD worsened and created obstacles preventing many Muslim New Yorkers from entering the public square—something particularly serious given the desire of many Muslim New Yorkers to engage in public discourse and to speak out against all types of extremism.

Recognizing our country’s Constitutional commitment to religious freedom, we fear for our own fundamental freedoms when we learn from our friends that houses of worship where Muslim families gather to pray have been spied on and infiltrated without warranted suspicion. When the same broad-brushstroke is applied to the vast majority innocent Muslim Americans as to a minority of violent terrorists—an activity that today’s hearing seems to encourage—the outcome is less safety and less rights for everyone. For example, spying based solely on religion by law enforcement defiles the sacred character of houses of worship especially when more often mosques serve as a defense against terrorism,[2] than terrorism hot-beds.

Unevenly applied protections diminish all of us. Unfair policies make communities weaker, hurting New York City and our nation as a whole, depriving those communities of rightful safeguards and fundamental rights. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Rev. Chloe Breyer

Executive Director

[1] AP’s Probe Into NYPD Intelligence Operations


[2] Evidence of the prevalence of Muslim community members assisting in foiling terrorist plots from 2002– 2012 is compiled in the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Policy Report “Data on Post-9/11 Terrorism in the United States” http://www.mpac.org/assets/docs/publications/MPAC-Post-911-Terrorism-Data.pdf

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