On Madison, Muslims, and the New York City Police Department

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Hofstra Law Review

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In the years before and after the ratification of the United States Constitution, James Madison offered, unsuccessfully, the view that a formal bill of rights would not safeguard individual liberties in the face of excessive federal power or the failure of the system of checks and balances. An examination of New York CityPolice Department (“NYPD”) treatment of Muslim-Americans in the years following the September 11, 2001 (“9/11”) attacks reveals the wisdom of Madison’s prediction. Since 9/11, the NYPD has espoused the view that the only way to prevent future terrorist attacks is to closely monitor Muslim communities, in case an “unremarkable” Muslim descends into “jihadization.” Such surveillance has serious consequences for the identity and economic and psychological health of the Muslim-American population. However, the author predicts that neither elected officials nor the courts will take steps to curb the NYPD’s surveillance strategy. This article asserts that, as Madison warned, the Bill of Rights will not stop the security of the majority from reigning over the individual liberties of the few.

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