Updated 03/11/2013 08:40 PM
Muslim Activists Claim NYPD Surveillance Stifles Freedom Of Speech, Worship
Local Muslim activists called on the NYPD Monday to stop surveillance of Muslims across the metropolitan area, saying that their new study finds the program has done no good and lots of harm. NY1's Ruschell Boone filed the following report.
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Hoping to hand-deliver a 51 page report directly to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, the head of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York tried to get into city police headquarters in Lower Manhattan on Monday, after speaking with the press outside.
Instead, the imam was told to give it to the commanding officer at One Police Plaza.
The report is called "Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying And Its Impact On American Muslims." In it, 57 people tell stories of how NYPD spies and informants are preventing many from speaking and worshiping freely.
"This report features or highlights the voices of real people," Abdur-Rashid said.
Many said they are afraid to speak openly, worried that what they say could be taken out of context. Some also believe that NYPD informants are trying to bait people into making inflammatory statements.
The Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition and two partner groups, Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), started interviewing Muslims around the city after the Associated Press reported in 2011 that the NYPD intelligence division had infiltrated dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups.
Soheeb Amin said as far as he knows he was never under any NYPD surveillance, but he felt targeted outside Brooklyn College last year.
Amin said, "They called me over and said 'Oh excuse me, I'm with the NYPD, would you like us to register your cellphone so that we can track, I mean, so that we can find your cellphone, just in case it's lost?' Exactly like that.
Last year, the head of the NYPD's intelligence division testified that the program had not generated any terrorism leads.
The protesters said Monday that all the program has accomplished is to make Muslims afraid to participate in religious, community and school activities, no matter what the NYPD says.
"One of the most common defenses is that the NYPD has put forward to defend its suspicion-less surveillance of American Muslims is that this is a harmless and victim-less policy," said Diala Shamas, a member of CLEAR.
But the Muslim activists said the findings in their report show that is far from true.
In response, the NYPD says in a statement that its intelligence programs are constitutional, and says that the department aided in the recent investigation of al-Qaida spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith and many terror plots in the city since September 11th.