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Muslim groups demand investigation of NYPD surveillance


Muslim groups demand investigation of NYPD surveillance


Muslim and civil rights organizations are calling for Governor Christie to investigate secret surveillance of Muslim communities by the New York Police Department in New Jersey.

The 16 New Jersey-based groups, including the Paterson-based Arab American Forum and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, sent a letter to the governor asking for a “prompt investigation” into the extent of NYPD spying activity in New Jersey and the involvement, if any, of New Jersey police.

The call for an investigation follows a series of press accounts that reveal the NYPD was closely watching Muslim neighborhoods, including ones in New Jersey, and infiltrating mosques and Muslim student groups. The wide scope and secrecy of the surveillance has left Muslim communities unsettled and has strained trust with law enforcement, community leaders said.

In the letter sent to the governor Friday, the groups allege the NYPD violated civil rights by spying on people based on their ethnicity or religion.

“It’s unauthorized and unconstitutional and they are employing racial profiling. There’s not sufficient reason for them to be spying on certain individuals,” said Aref Assaf, president of the Arab American Forum.

The NYPD and the governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday afternoon. NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have said that police only follow legitimate leads and do not do surveillance based solely on religion.

But local activists feared that was not the case. They pointed to a recent news report that the NYPD had recommended surveillance at Shiite mosques and organizations with no reported link to terrorism, and in Palestinian communities. The reason given by police in a 2006 document was to counter any threat linked to Iran, where Shiite Muslims are the majority of the population.