Muslim civic groups condemned the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) surveillance program of city mosques and Muslim community organizations, Wednesday, and called for a federal investigation into the force’s policies after a report by The Associated Press revealed that it had secretly designated mosques as terrorist organizations.
At a press conference held outside police headquarters, representatives from the groups compared the NYPD’s targeting of Muslims to the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, a police tactic that a federal judge and the city council struck down earlier this month for unfairly targeting black and Hispanic men.
Dr. Ahmad Jaber, president of the Arab American Association of New York, announced that he would be resigning his role as an advisor to the NYPD’s Muslim Advisory Council.
"When I hear about these things I feel betrayed, I feel stabbed in the back," Jaber told Al Jazeera, adding that he didn’t understand why immigrants who want to learn English or become citizens were considered legitimate targets for investigation by the NYPD.
"I would say I’m more disappointed than angry, but I’m not surprised," said Mariam Luqman, 23, from nearby Yonkers and a student in the city.
"There’ve been so much programs and talking but there’s been really no action on the NYPD part besides the spying," she added. "So I think that they really need to relook at what the purpose of this really is and be honest about it, because if it was really to protect the community then why would it they attack people in the community they’re trying to protect."
The NYPD’s classification of mosques as terrorist organizations allows it to employ informants, secretly record sermons and spy on religious leaders without clear evidence of criminal behavior, said the AP report.
Mohammed Shah Jahan, a community organizer and senior systems analyst at the New York Stock Exchange, said: "We are fighting right now [to learn] English, for jobs but they are spying on us. Of course we feel bad."
Lawyer and activist Lamis Deek, a board member of the Council on American Islamic Relations, denounced the NYPD’s spying program, comparing it with stop-and-frisk and calling for the federal government to intervene over the matter.
"We demand that the Department of Justice dispatch immediately a monitor to investigate what is happening and we demand full accounting for all of these crimes committed against the vast majority of the people of New York," she said Wednesday’s press conference.
New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who has defended both stop-and-frisk and surveillance programs on Muslims as legal and necessary measures, has been mentioned in news reports as a possible nominee for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Deek said he should be out of the running.
"We also demand that Kelly’s name be removed from consideration," Deek told Al Jazeera.
Kelly responded to AP’s report on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program, Wednesday, describing it as "fiction."
"I haven’t seen the story, but they’re hyping a book that’s coming out next week," Kelly said, referring to a forthcoming book by AP reporters Adam Goldman and Matt Appuzzo, who broke the story on the NYPD’s Muslim-community surveillance programs.
"If it’s a reflection of the article, then the book will be a fair amount of fiction, it will be half-truths, it will be lots of quotes from unnamed sources," he added. "Our sin is to have the temerity and hutzpah to go into the federal government’s territory to go into counterterrorism and trying to protect this city by supplementing what the federal government has done."
The reporters continued coverage of the NYPD’s Muslim-community surveillance programs won them the Pulitzer Prize last year.