Updated 03/09/2012 09:51 PM
NYPD Commissioner Meets With Muslim Leaders Amid Growing Surveillance Controversy
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Muslim leaders met with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at NYPD headquarters Friday afternoon, the same day that the Associated Press reported that police kept secret files on businesses owned by second- and third-generation Americans of Muslim faith as part of the department's counter-terrorism program.
"The Muslim community feels under siege," Mohammed Nurhussein of the United African Congress told NY1. "And that issue has to be addressed."
Those who met with Kelly say he assured them that the NYPD was obeying the law.
One imam told NY1 that he would not be concerned if the NYPD kept tabs on the people coming to his mosque.
"What is wrong if the police knows who is coming and who is going out, so long as it is conducted within the bounds of the law," said Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center.
However many Muslims say they have serious misgivings about the department's tactics. Several groups gathered outside police headquarters Friday to denounce the NYPD and to blast the police commissioner. They say he has refused to meet with his toughest critics.
"They are organizing sham meetings with sham leaders of the community," said Fahd Ahmed of the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition.
According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, the NYPD kept secret files on businesses owned by second- and third-generation Americans, specifically because they were Muslims.
The AP says the NYPD's secretive Demographics Unit was assigned to investigate the area's Syrian population in 2007 but excluded Syrian Jews and Christians from monitoring.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, meanwhile, kept up his defense of the police department on his weekly radio show.
"We’re doing the right thing," he said on 710 WOR Friday. "We will continue to do the right thing. We take every precaution possible to not do anything that ever violates the law.
Bloomberg also implied that officials denouncing the surveillance program may just be trying to get attention from the media.
"It's a made-for-television thing. It gets you publicity if you want to talk. There's somebody willing to stick a microphone or camera in front of you and put it on the air. I don't know how much of it's that," said Bloomberg. "The FBI director, Robert Mueller, said that the NYPD has done a remarkable job protecting New York City."
Many Muslim leaders have spoken out against the NYPD's tactics, but the mayor said the Muslim groups he has spoken with are supportive of the program.
"The Muslim groups that I have talked to in the last few weeks – to say 'all,' I think, is being close to being accurate – they keep saying, 'Look, we don't want to be out there getting involved in all of this. We should just keep our heads down. But we do not need another terrorist attack,'" said Bloomberg.
On Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he was "disturbed" by what he had read about the NYPD's spying program and he noted that the issue was under review by the Justice Department.