A Muslim legal rights group is going to federal court Wednesday in New Jersey, claiming New York City’s police department has violated the civil rights of innocent Muslims.
Earlier this year, the NYPD was criticized for a surveillance program targeting universities and mosques in several states.
The NYPD says it’s just doing its job, and doing it legally, but the group of New Jersey Muslims charges that the NYPD gathered secret files on Muslims, not because they were suspected of any crime, but simply because of their religion.
Abdul Kareem Muhammad is the imam of a mosque in Newark.
His mosque, like every other mosque in Newark, was listed in a secret NYPD intelligence report.
He says he was “certainly” surprised that the New York police were involved. “We were surprised that this was going on, period,” Muhammad says.
So were the imams of other mosques, Muslim schools, Muslim restaurants, Muslim-owned stores — all listed in the NYPD report.
The lawsuit also charges that the NYPD monitored meetings and web postings of Muslim student associations.
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have both defended the practice, saying the information the NYPD collects is within the department’s guidelines, which are approved and monitored by lawyers and a federal judge.
The NYPD says it shouldn’t be barred from going anywhere the general public can including, for instance a meeting of the Muslim Student Association.
But the Muslim community argues, if police have a lead, and need to follow into the Muslim community, a lead’s a lead, and police should follow it wherever they have to go. But, they say, police shouldn’t be able to come into a community and just catalogue every business, house of worship, school, and put it in a file and stamp it “secret” and keep it forever if you don’t suspect anything.
The plaintiffs say they don’t intend to get money out of the suit. The monetary damages, they say, have been nominal.
They hope to get two things: They want a set of rules saying the NYPD can’t do the surveillance anymore, and they want a federal judge to put a stamp on that.
And they want all the files expunged from the records.