New York City cops have been conducting surveillance and harassing Muslims throughout the state, in New Jersey and beyond. In fact NYPD agents function in Europe, the Middle East and South Asia as part of police intelligence and interrogation units. Detectives have conducted interrogations in Afghanistan, Egypt, Yemen, and Pakistan.
The AP stories have been met with a storm of protest from a number of government officials and big business press, underscoring the fact that the question is of great concern for U.S. rulers, going well beyond New York.
“Eternal vigilance in the war against radical Islam is a price that even pacifist New Yorkers must pay for the right not to get blown up at Macy’s,” Michael Walsh wrote in the Feb. 19 New York Post. “And if that offends the AP, tough.”
The cops’ “cyber intelligence unit” monitored daily websites, blogs and meetings of Muslim Student Association groups. AP reported that the NYPD placed informants in groups at six City University of New York campuses and St. John’s University. They also spied at Columbia and New York University.
In one case in April 2008 an undercover cop accompanied 18 Muslim students from the City College of New York on a whitewater rafting trip. The officer recorded students’ names for police files and how many times they prayed.
“I wasn’t surprised this police spying was happening on our community as we knew stuff was going on, but surprised it was happening on campus,” Aber Kawas, a member of the Muslim Student Association at City College, told the Militant in a phone interview.
Another intelligence report from January 2009 described a trip by NYPD officers to Buffalo where they met with a top Erie County Sheriff’s Department official. They agreed “to develop assets jointly in the Buffalo area, to act as listening posts within the ethnic Somalian community,” the report said, including spying on professors and students.
The cops also spied on Muslim Student Associations across New York state and in New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the campus surveillance on the pretext that some individuals convicted on “terrorism” charges had been involved in Muslim student groups.
Police spying on student groups is part of a larger surveillance operation targeting Muslim neighborhoods, new details of which have become public over the past several months. “The NYPD built databases showing where Muslims lived, worked, shopped and prayed,” reported AP. “Plainclothes officers known as rakers eavesdropped in cafes, and informants known as mosque crawlers reported on weekly sermons.”
In Newark, N.J., the NYPD photographed every mosque in the city, including homes where worshippers gather and educational centers, as well as Muslim-owned businesses, a 2007 police demographics report details. The NYPD put cameras on poles by mosques and wrote down license plates of cars in mosque parking lots, reported the Christian Science Monitor.
“This spying is a form of bullying and intimidation,” Ashraf Latif, president and chairman of the National Islamic Association in Newark, told the Militant in a phone interview.
“It’s not just about being Muslim,” he continued. “It’s about isolating a set of people based on their religious beliefs. Today, it’s Muslims, tomorrow it may be a lot of sets of people.
“We want to know if this surveillance is still going on,” said Latif. “And we demand a statement exonerating all the Muslims they’ve spied on.”
The police “are invading the privacy of the mosque and its membership,” said Imam Abdul Muhammad of the Masjid Ali Muslim mosque in Newark in a phone interview. “We have nothing to hide.”
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