In 1992, the forbidding streets of South-Central Los Angeles played host to the Rodney King riots—a violent juncture in the city’s history. The discord left the impoverished city blocks tinged with despair and yearning for compassion. When the smoke cleared, a group of seven UCLA and Charles Drew Medical students moved in. They saw a community that was bleeding, and they hoped to help mend it by providing free healthcare to one of the country’s poorest neighborhoods. This was the modest beginnings of the UMMA Community Clinic, now a beloved fixture in South Los Angeles, which has served more than 25,000 patients in the last fifteen years.
Last week, news broke that the NYPD had been monitoring Muslim student groups in several different universities, looking to identify terrorists by their prayer habits and adeptness at paint-balling. They spied on Muslim students and infiltrated MSAs at campuses not just across New York City but as far away as Yale University. MSAs at sixteen colleges were under regular and unchecked surveillance by the NYPD, without being suspected of any wrongdoing.
As a beneficiary of a Muslim Student Association myself, the news left me torn—I did not know whether to laugh quietly or to scoff in bitter fury. My years in MSA were spent packing lunches for homeless feedings, mentoring kids at an underprivileged high school and learning about my faith with my best friends. The idea that a police force could trail a group of students who are trying to be assets to their community, seemed preposterous to me
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