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Sarah Sayeed, Ph.D.

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The Dolphin and the Monkey and NYPD's Disappointing Tactics

Posted: 01/26/2012 1:04 pm

One of Aesop's less well-known fables narrates the story of dolphins that were friendly to humans and helped to save an entire crew of Greeks whose ship was wrecked off the coast of Piraeus. The dolphins took the shipwrecked people on their backs and swam with them to shore. The Greeks used to take pet monkeys and dogs with them on their voyages and one of the dolphins saw a monkey in the water and thought it was a man and came alongside, asking the monkey to climb up on his back. As he started swimming to the shore, he made conversation with the monkey, asking "You are a citizen of illustrious Athens, are you not?" "Yes," answered the Monkey, proudly. "My family is one of the noblest in the city." "Indeed," said the Dolphin. "Then of course you often visit Piraeus." "Yes, yes," replied the Monkey. "Indeed, I do. I am with him constantly. Piraeus is my very best friend."

Wait -- Piraeus was the name of the port, not a person. This answer took the Dolphin by surprise, and, turning his head, he now saw what it was he was carrying. Without any further thought, he dived and left the foolish Monkey to take care of himself, while he swam off in search of some human being to save.

Aesop's story might be a good one to teach at New York Police Department trainings, instead of infecting unsuspecting officers with a pernicious fear of Islam and Muslims. The active participation of Police Commissioner Kelly and his Public Affairs Officer Paul Browne in the creation and promotion of an anti-Muslim film has led Muslim New Yorkers to deep disappointment, skepticism and mistrust. They are now calling for the two to resign.

But Aesop's fable is relevant in another way. For so long, the Muslim community leadership in New York City has been carrying the Commissioner along -- being friendly like the dolphin. The Commissioner, like any other leader, needs the community to carry him along, to prop him up, to vouch for his authority. Like the dolphin, the community has tried to save the NYPD from the consequences of its own poor choices, tried to protect its reputation by more subdued methods. They have tried to be patient, wrote polite letters, quietly sought out the Commissioner's ear in social events, across a dinner plate -- tried to cultivate relationships in a climate where the community has sometimes struggled to stay afloat. The leadership did as the dolphin -- carried someone they thought was a human being worthy of holding up. This effort has been particularly difficult in a climate that is much like the one faced by the Greek ship -- the tides of anti-Islam hysteria and post 9/11 backlash on the community have felt like a shipwreck at times. Building relationships with civic officials, including the police department, felt like it was one of the best ways to keep the Muslim community from drowning.

But that human being turned out to be someone other than we thought he was. In actuality, he has been taking advantage of the community's sincere efforts to build a relationship to meet his own ends. To keep himself afloat, he has evaded their requests, and told outright lies. He said that the NYPD had nothing to do with the production of "The Third Jihad" -- even while he himself appeared in the film. He said that the film had only been shown a few times and suggested that it had been without his approval. Ultimately, his falsehoods have derailed the very purpose he may have set forth to achieve -- to be a credible and respected leader of the most powerful police force in the most diverse city.

And so, like the dolphin, realizing who it is they were carrying along, the community leadership has decided to dive- - and to leave the Commissioner to fend for his life [in other words, his position] as they search for human beings who may be more worthy of holding on their backs as leaders.