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New York Muslims to snub Bloomberg breakfast in surveillance protest

29 December 2011 General 16 Comments Email This Post Email This Post
The letter said Michael Bloomberg had 'defended the NYPD misconduct'. Photograph: Henny Ray Abrams/Reuters

The letter said Michael Bloomberg had 'defended the NYPD misconduct'. Photograph: Henny Ray Abrams/Reuters

A group of prominent Muslim figures in New York City have said they will boycott an annual meeting on Friday with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in order to protest against police surveillance of their communities.

Bloomberg is scheduled to hold a multi-faith “Bagels with Bloomberg” breakfast with religious leaders from across the city on Friday morning, but the group has written to the mayor’s office outlining their reasons for refusing to attend.

In particular, the group says it is outraged at details that emerged earlier this year of a concerted effort by the New York police department to monitor activities of Muslims in New York. A series of reports by the Associated Press detailed the activities of a unit within the NYPD, called the Demographics Unit, that monitored daily life in Muslim communities, including eavesdropping in businesses and infiltrating mosques.

“According to the investigation, the police department monitored and collected information on New Yorkers at about 250 mosques, schools, and businesses throughout the city, simply because of their religion and not because they exhibited suspicious behavior,” the letter said.

It added: “Mayor Bloomberg, the extent of these civil rights violations is astonishing, yet instead of calling for accountability and the rule of law, you have thus far defended the NYPD’s misconduct. We, on the other hand, believe that such measures threaten the rights of all Americans, and deepen mistrust between our communities and law enforcement.”

The letter was signed by 15 prominent Muslim New Yorkers, including Khaled Lamada, head of the Muslim American Society, Omar Mohammedi, president of the Association of Muslim American Lawyers, Aisha al-Adawiya, founder of Women in Islam, and Iman Al Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, who president of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York.

Another signatory, Linda Sarsour, the director of the Arab-American Association of New York, told the Guardian that the AP reports had confirmed her worst fears. “This confirmed what we already knew. It gave validity to our concerns that we are being spied upon just because of our religion. That undermines the security of all New Yorkers,” Sarsour said.

Sarsour added that lawsuits against the NYPD were being considered in the wake of the AP investigation, and called for an independent inquiry into the activities of the department when it came to monitoring Muslim communities.

So far, that call has fallen on deaf ears. Senior police figures have denied that they targeted Muslim communities in general, claiming they only followed leads. Bloomberg has also strongly and consistently backed the city’s police department and its tactics.

An investigation by the CIA had looked at its role in helping the NYPD and recently concluded no wrongdoing had taken place.

But Sarsour remained unsatisfied.

“How can someone from the CIA be the one to investigate the CIA? We are asking for an independent investigation,” she said, saying it should be carried out by the Department of Justice or a Congressional committee.

A spokesman for the mayor’s office downplayed the impact of the letter and the boycott, saying that other Muslim leaders were still planning on attending the breakfast gathering. “We have a couple dozen Muslim community leaders who have RSVP-ed that they will be at the breakfast, which is about the same as previous years,” said Stu Loeser.

NYPD officials also weighed into the spat, saying that the AP story had exaggerated its activities. “The NYPD lawfully follows leads in terrorist-related investigations and does not engage in the kind of wholesale spying on communities that was false alleged,” said Paul Browne, an NYPD deputy commissioner.

But the revelations about the Demographics Unit are not the only controversy surrounding NYPD actions around Muslim Americans and terrorism. An NYPD operation last month arrested a suspected “lone wolf” terrorist in the shape of New Yorker Jose Pimentel. NYPD officials hailed the arrest, which occurred after a lengthy undercover operation that saw an NYPD informant supply Pimental with bomb-making equipment, as a major triumph.

However, it later emerged that the FBI had passed on co-operating on the case, because it believed the target was not a viable threat. That has led to accusations that the NYPD “entrapped” Pimental.

Original post: New York Muslims to snub Bloomberg breakfast in surveillance protest

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16 Comments »

  1. Inshallah …

  2. Good. More people need to say enough is enough.

  3. Well done! Don’t let his hypocrisy go un-answered. He can eat breakfast by himself.

  4. I don’t see how boycotting this event helps in any way. Attend and give your grievances to Bloomberg personally instead of acting like petulant little children.

  5. Is this any surprise from a city that championed their”racial profiling” as a crime deterrant that still exists today resulting in innocent minorites being shot & killed??? I like Bloomberg but sometimes he is on the wrong side of morality(OWS)!!!

  6. @Adam Barloga “instead of acting like petulant little children”..wow really? I’m sorry it just that we Muslims know American History better than you do. We’re not gonna wait until the US govt did to the Japanese by putting them in Concentration Camps just like the Nazis did to the Jews in Europe. So sorry if we’re being overcautious.

  7. @Adam Barloga “instead of acting like petulant little children”..wow really? I’m sorry it just that we Muslims know American History better than you do. We’re not gonna wait until the US govt did to the Japanese by putting them in Concentration Camps during WW2 just like the Nazis did to the Jews in Europe. So sorry if we’re being overcautious

  8. We dont need Radical Muslims ,they can go back to middle east if they dont like how we run our goverment !

  9. @Albert, not all Muslims are radical, many just want to live their religion in peace and quiet. Most Muslims in this country are at peace with the community they live in and worship at the masjid of their choice.

  10. Never mind Bloomberg’s courage in standing up for Park 51. Given that, a boycott seems pretty premature. There are legitimate security concerns in NYC, and instead of demonizing him activists should work with him. He’s shown himself to be a reasonable guy.

  11. Oh well … too bad. But we also need surveillance on the American Christian taliban. You know, the ones with abortion providing doctors in their crosshairs. Claiming they are murdering doctors to protect the lives of unborn fetuses.

  12. @Jessica Akbar: Before insulting others’ knowledge of history, you should read up on your own. Police surveillance is not going to lead to detention camps (which SCOTUS has changed its opinion on– see Hamdi v Rumsfeld) and even if it were, Bloomberg is in charge of *NYC* police, not federal law enforcement. Any mass internment would obviously happen on the federal level.

  13. Hmm? “Radical Muslims”, “go back”, “middle east”, “they”, “we” “OUR government”. I think I’ve read that phrase book somewhere before.

  14. Barking at the wrong tree. Maybe they’d be more effective in their boycott if it concerned commissioner Ray Kelly or those big shots the FBI has assigned all over the country to spy on Muslims.

  15. Barking at the wrong tree. Maybe they’d be more effective in their boycott if it concerned commissioner Ray Kelly or those big shots the FBI has assigned all over the country to spy on Muslims.

  16. Alberta sKinner,
    I’m what you’d call a white American Muslim. My family has lived in the US for over 3 generations. If you don’t like it then you should leave.

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