The Nation released an editorial demanding a federal probe into NYPD surveillance of Muslims. Full article here. One of three demands made by CAIR and other civil rights advocates was independent oversight of the NYPD.
CAIR: Appeals Court Upholds Muslim Rights in Oklahoma
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/10/12) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today welcomed a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upholding a lower court’s decision to block implementation of an Oklahoma state constitutional amendment that would prohibit courts from applying — or even considering — “Sharia law” and “international law.”
In response to a lawsuit filed in 2010 by Muneer Awad, the head of CAIR’s Oklahoma office (CAIR-OK), the lower court blocked implementation of the “Save Our State Amendment” based on arguments that it would unconstitutionally disfavor an entire faith and deny Oklahoma’s Muslims access to the judicial system on the same terms as every other citizen. The state appealed that ruling.
NEW YORK (AP) — Hundreds of Muslims prayed in a lower Manhattan park and marched to New York Police headquarters Friday to protest a decade of police infiltrating mosques and spying on Muslim neighborhoods.
Bundled in winter clothes, men and women knelt as the call to prayer echoed off the cold stone of government buildings.
“Being Muslim does not negate our nationality,” Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid told the crowd of about 500 gathered in Foley Square, not far from City Hall and local courthouses. “We are unapologetically Muslim and uncompromisingly American.”
The demonstration was smaller and more subdued than the Occupy Wall Street protests that led to clashes with police and made headlines worldwide. Police wore windbreakers, not riot gear, and protesters called for improved relations with police.
“We want for you to respect us,” Abdur-Rashid said, “and we will respect you.”
It was the first organized opposition to the NYPD’s intelligence tactics since an Associated Press investigation revealed widespread spying programs that documented every aspect of Muslim life in New York. Police infiltrated mosques and student groups. Plainclothes officers catalogued Middle Eastern restaurants and their clientele. Analysts built databases on Arab cab drivers and monitored Muslims who changed their names.
“Had this been happening to any other religious group, all of America would be outraged,” said Daoud Ibraheem, 73, a retired graphic artist from Brooklyn.
Following the prayer service, the Muslims — joined by about 50 Occupy Wall Street demonstrators — crowded the sidewalk for the short walk to the large police headquarters building known as One Police Plaza. They stayed only briefly, chanting for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s ouster, before returning to Foley Square.
Protesters carried signs that said “NYPD Watches Us. Who Watches NYPD?” A dozen or so uniformed police officers monitored the demonstration and followed the march, but there were no clashes between protesters and police
At an unrelated news conference Friday, Kelly told reporters that he “categorically” denied the idea that the NYPD was spying.
Kelly and his intelligence chief, David Cohen, have transformed the NYPD into one of the nation’s most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies. It operates far outside the city borders and its manpower and budget give it capabilities that even the federal government does not have. NYPD analysts were among the first to study the thorny question of how people are radicalized.
Kelly said his officers only follow leads and do not simply trawl neighborhoods.
“We do what we believe necessary to protect this city, pursuant to the law,” Kelly said. “We have a battery of very experienced, well-trained lawyers that advise us on all of our tactics and operations.”
Outside the department, however, there is little oversight of the Intelligence Division and it’s roughly $60 million budget. The City Council is not told about all the department’s secret operations and city auditors have not scrutinized the unit since it was transformed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Some of its tactics, such as monitoring name changes, would not be allowed by the FBI because of civil liberties concerns.
Many of the NYPD programs were built with the help of the CIA as part of an unusually close collaboration that is now the subject of an internal CIA investigation.
“America is supposed to be a country that protects your freedoms,” said Yusuf Ali Muhammed, a protester from the Bronx who wore an embroidered skullcap and a white Middle Eastern robe. “But America has become a hypocritical government, a government that thinks it can do anything it wants with nobody objecting.”
Abdur-Rashid, of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, said it was no secret that police have been watching mosques for years. But monitoring everything from Islamic schools to restaurants, as shown in NYPD documents, was unacceptable, he said.
“We’re peaceful people,” said Dalia Nazzal, 18, a freshman at the City University of New York, a target of police infiltration. “We don’t deserve to be under surveillance.”
Mohamed Mahmoud, 40, the owner of a Brooklyn printing shop, said he knew several people who had been approached by NYPD officers trying to recruit them as informants. Documents obtained by the AP also show that police monitored even those Muslims who decried terrorism and partnered with the government to prevent violence.
“They think that all Muslims are criminals, and it’s not right,” Mahmoud said.
Hundreds of Muslims staged a rally and public prayers in New York City Friday, to protest alleged ethnic and religious profiling in their community by the city’s police department.
Demonstrators gathered in New York’s Foley Square chanting for an end to surveillance. They also held signs condemning the New York City Police Department for allegedly infiltrating mosques, spying on Muslim student groups, cataloguing Middle Eastern restaurants and compiling data on Arab cab drivers. The charges came to light in a recent investigative report by the Associated Press.
In a sermon at the rally during traditional Friday Muslim prayers, Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid said Muslims in the United States are unapologetic about their faith and uncompromisingly American.
“Our American identity is based on ideals, and principals and affirmation of truth. We affirm the American dream,” he said.
One of the signs at the rally said “The police watch us. Who’s watching the police?”
The National Lawyers Guild does just that. A team from the non-profit federation of lawyers, legal workers, and law students came to the rally to observe interaction between the protesters and police. Guild member Bina Ahmad said government surveillance without probable cause violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. She said there is no valid reason for infiltrating the Muslim community.
“We all have the right to be free and equal citizens, have the right to free speech, to be free of a police state,” said Ahmad. “We have the Fourth Amendment, your right against unreasonable search and seizure. And we’re all law-abiding citizens.”
An NYPD liaison with the Muslim community declined VOA’s request for comment, pointing instead to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s recent testimony at a City Council hearing about the surveillance. Kelly said the NYPD does not engage in racial profiling, but rather, “follows leads wherever those leads may take us.” One council member asked if police have ever gone to a mosque or followed a person without a specific lead. Kelly said he could not answer that definitively.
Latest FBI records show the number of hate crimes against Muslims increased nearly 50 percent last year. One hundred and sixty cases of hate crimes against Muslims were reported in 2010 compared to 107 in 2009.
A report by the Center for American Progress released in August named several foundations and wealthy donors as being behind a ten year campaign to spread Islamophobia in the US.
Press TV has interviewed Ibrahim Hooper from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in New York to discuss the issue further.
Press TV: With the statistics that have come out, were you surprised at the figures? What do you think needs to be done at this point in time to try to decrease these numbers?
Hooper: I don’t think this jump in the report of anti-Muslim hate crimes is a surprise at all. We have seen for the last almost two years a tremendous rise in the level of anti-Muslim rhetoric in our society by what we call the Islamophobia machine that is a coordinated, well-financed group of individuals and organizations that promote and exploit Islamophobia.
We have seen this over the past two years —primarily catalyzed, I think, by this manufactured controversy over the park51 Islamic community center in New York. So, it has been our experience whenever you see a rise in the anti-Muslim rhetoric, you are going to see a similar rise in anti-Muslim incidents and I think that is what has been demonstrated here.
Press TV: What about the reports now that say many of these organizations have had direct or indirect ties with Israel. Can you give us your perspective on that?
Hooper: I don’t know about that, the Islamophobia machine has a number of different motivations. We see extreme right wingers, we see religious extremism there, there is all kinds of motivation so I don’t know you can assign it to one particular motivation but we see increasingly these individuals coordinated amongst themselves, support each other. We saw the terrorist who gunned down dozens and dozens of civilians in Norway citing, in his manifesto American Islamophobes who are part of this Islamophobia machine. So it even goes beyond national borders.
Press TV: What about average American Muslims, do you think they feel the difference —compared to prior to 9/11 and now? Do you think there is a sense of more awareness on the part of Muslims now in the US?
Hooper: You cannot help but be aware of the rising anti-Muslim rhetoric in our society, you can’t turn on a talk radio program, you cannot read the comments on articles online related to Islam and Muslims, you cannot watch the right-wing cable news programs without seeing, reading and hearing anti-Muslim rhetoric on a daily basis.
That is why we have asked mainstream leaders and individuals in America to speak against out this rising level of intolerance and hatred and so far we hadn’t had a great response; there have been some people who have spoken out but we need it come from the top even into the White House.
Press TV: What kind of effect this has had, specially on the young Muslims in the society —as far as their psyche, when according to what you are saying, when they turn on their TV or turn on cable, there are so many programs talking negatively about Islam. What does that do for the Muslim identity, especially for the young people in the US?
Hooper: That is a very good question because as adults we can often put up with this kind of rhetoric, we have life experience, we know times when this wasn’t the case, but how is this going to affect a young person who’s just started growing up now in a society where their faith is vilified publicly so often and so regularly; it is yet to be determined how that will impact those children.
With everything else the Obama administration has on its plate these days—such as the drafting of executive orders meant to jumpstart the eoncomy in the absence of congressional action—you probably thought the White House had turned its back on its Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
I’m guessing you didn’t know the White House even had an Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, let alone a Facebook page dedicated to this worthy cause with 3,859 followers.
But it does. And last Saturday the administration sent officials associated with that initiative to Hunter College here in Manhattan, to meet with local parents, teachers, students, and community leaders at a bullying prevention summit. The stated purpose of the conclave was “to address the safety of Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Muslim American students.”
To be honest, I didn’t know there were any Pacific Islanders living in the Big Apple. Since the Census Bureau fixes the percentage of Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders at 0% for 2010, I would imagine their numbers are relatively small. I also wouldn’t think that Asian Americans are that much at risk unless it’s of having other test takers copy their answers. Forgive my racial insensitivity, but the vast majority of my sons’ classmates and friends at the brainiac high schools they went to were Asian, and they placed extremely well when it came time for college applications.
And what of Muslim Americans? I recall hearing fears expressed after 9/11 that Muslims in this country were likely to be targeted, but those fears were never realized. Sure, there were random offenses, but no massive hate-fueled campaign against the American Muslim community, no rash of attacks on mosques.
Yet, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education, Muslim American students and their pan-Asian counterparts are likely targets of bullying. In a statement, Thomas Mariadason, an attorney at the Manhattan-based Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said:
Post 9/11, bias-based bullying toward religious and immigrant communities has been a consistent issue, and it continues to be under reported.
We’ve seen the egregious effects bias-based harassment has on students when there is a failure to intervene, from the violence at South Philadelphia High School in 2009 to reports we received in years past from the former Lafayette High School in Brooklyn. The problem persists, and it is a critical time for the White House to address these issues.
The incident in South Philadelphia Mariadason refers to involved some two dozen Vietnamese students who were jumped and beaten by black students. The motivations for the attacks were never scrutinized. The number of victims varied between 7 and 13 depending on the account; all were treated at an area hospital for scrapes and bruises and released.
The event precipitated a response within the school—50 Asian immigrants led a boycott—and the community at large. A year later, the Notebook, a Philadelphia public school blog, which had done extensive reporting on the incident initially, wrote:
[T]here’s no doubt South Philadelphia High School is a very different school. A new principal, an energized student base, emerging partnerships, a commitment to addressing school violence—all have resulted in striking progress. The violence and chaos of last year is largely gone, and students report a changed attitude from staff members, some of whom had participated in the harassment by mocking their accents and refusing to take seriously their reports of racial bias.
In brief, the incident was one-off. Corrective action was taken, and everyone has since moved on—except Thomas Mariadason. His mention of Lafayette High School in Brooklyn is doubly ludicrous since the hates crimes alluded to are close to a decade old and the school hasn’t existed since December of 2006. It’s a pretty safe bet that closing a school down will end any racial animus within its student body.