Muslim Students Call NYPD Monitoring “Violation” of Rights

The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union say they are considering possible litigation against the New York Police Department over their surveillance and monitoring of Muslim student groups across the Northeast. The groups are calling on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to investigate religious and racial profiling by the NYPD, and Muslim students attending CUNY, one of 13 schools targeted, say they applaud the group’s efforts. I spoke with members of the Muslim Student Association at the College of Staten Island, who say they are shocked and outraged by the surveillance program.

“It’s a violation of our privacy, you know, its not easy to be able to speak openly about your religion, or anything at all, when you know that you are being monitored,” said Dina Ahmed, president of the club.

Documents show the NYPD used undercover officers to infiltrate Muslim student groups and compiled daily reports on the activities of Muslim students, as part of their anti-terrorism efforts. The Muslim Student Association at CSI has 20 active members, but the group’s treasurer, Ramses Martinez, says new members are now scared to join.

“People are kind of apprehensive about saying their Muslim and talking to each other and getting together, they figure maybe they will get in trouble, they’ll get arrested, something bad could happen to them or their family.”

Police commissioner Ray Kelly stands by the surveillance program, saying in a press conference Monday that there have been 14 New York City terror plots since September 11th.

“We’re going to continue to do what we have to do to make certain that to the best of our ability that we don’t have another catastrophic event like we did in 2001.”

Mayor Bloomberg called the surveillance program “legal” “appropriate” and “constitutional” in his weekly radio address Friday. Yet, Muslim students at CSI say they are being unfairly targeted.

“Its unfair to persecute a whole people based on the mistakes or the horrible decisions that a few people make,” said Ahmed.

The director of the ACLU’s National Security Project is now stepping in, saying in a press release, “the NYPD has run amok, engaging in secret multi-state domestic surveillance of innocent people based on crude religious and racial profiling,” said Hina Shamsi. “A society committed to equal justice under the law should be deeply concerned when law enforcement spies on people merely because of their race, ethnicity or national origin”

The group, along with NYCLU legal director Arthur Eisenberg, is now urging Bloomberg to investigate the surveillance program.

“In directing surveillance against Muslims engaged in perfectly lawful activity, the NYPD has effectively imposed a badge of suspicion on all Muslims and has stigmatized communities of individuals based upon their religious affiliations,” said Eisenberg. “Mayor Bloomberg, who has demonstrated sensitivity to religious discrimination issues in the past, should take a fresh and hard look at the NYPD’s surveillance practices.”


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