Updated 02/29/2012 10:37 PM
NYU Town Meeting Decries NYPD's Alleged Surveillance Of Muslim Students
There's growing anger on a number of college campuses in and around the city following a report that suggests the NYPD has been keeping a close eye on Muslim students, and at a Wednesday town hall meeting at NYU, people said they were fed up. Borough reporter Rebecca Spitz filed the following report.
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It started with a recitation from the Koran. Muslim and non-Muslim students sat together in New York University's Kimmel Student Center in Greenwich Village, in protest over the New York City Police Department's reported secret surveillance and collection of data on the behavior of Muslims in and around the city, maybe even on college campuses.
"I've never felt myself that I shouldn't go to the Islamic Center, but when my friends, people I've known for four, three, two years, even freshmen that I met this year are saying 'Hey, we can't go to your club because our parents are saying, okay, you might be watched,'" said Ahmad Raza of the NYU Islamic Students Association.
Some students said they would be there no matter who was being surveilled because it just is not right:
"When the actions of our state and our city start to look like the actions of a police state, we should all be terrified and angry," said NYU Law School student Lizzy Dann.
There was a broad base of support at the town hall meeting, from students to faculty to chaplains concerned about the surveillance first reported by the Associated Press.
"Muslim students at NYU should be watched but not for the same reason that the AP reported. Muslim students at NYU should be watched because of the incredible work that they've done," said Rabbi Yehuda Sharna of the NYU Bronfman Center.
While it is not confirmed NYU's Muslim students were being watched, some say they are on edge.
"There is nothing to stop the NYPD from invading my privacy and keeping records of me," said NYU senior Tabassum Rahman.
NY1 spoke with Police Commissioner Kelly, who said whatever actions the NYPD has engaged in are within the limits of the law."
"We are doing our actions are pursuant to the law. We are doing what we believe we need to do to keep the city safe," said the commissioner.
NYU President John Sexton wrote to the NYPD on behalf of the school's Muslim community. Students asked he go a step further and ask to what extent their surveillance was conducted.
They said they are committed to dealing with the issue peacefully and diplomatically as long as necessary.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department is looking into complaints regarding the New York City Police Department's surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods.
Attorney General Eric Holder said the department is in the beginning stages of reviewing the complaints.
The controversy was sparked after the Associated Press reported the NYPD built databases pinpointing Muslim homes, restaurants, shops and mosques.
Dozens of mosques and students groups were infiltrated.
Critics have questioned the legality of the surveillance and whether federal money was used.