(RNS) Muslim and civil rights organizations say a New York Police Department program to secretly monitor Islamic communities has created so much fear and suspicion among Muslims that many find it impossible to lead normal lives.
A new 56-page report, “Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying and its Impact on American Muslims,” details how the NYPD’s covert surveillance caused Muslims to refrain from activism and change their appearance so as not to appear too Muslim, and sowed suspicion among community members.
As a result, the Monday (March 11) report asserts, trust between Muslims and police has broken down. The program, in which NYPD policemen secretly visited mosques, Muslim-owned businesses, and student and civic associations beyond New York’s five boroughs, was established in 2001 but uncovered by The Associated Press in 2011.
A spokesperson for the NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.
New York leaders, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have defended the NYPD program as a necessary post-9/11 weapon against terrorism. In New Jersey, where much of the spying occurred, Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa concluded there was no evidence that NYPD activities violated New Jersey’s civil or criminal laws.
The groups behind the report said Muslims have reached out to the NYPD to set up a venue, such as a town hall-style meeting, where they could talk about Muslim concerns about the NYPD program, but that their requests were rebuffed.
“Because nothing has happened, that’s the direct reason for this report,” said Nermeen Arastu, a report author and pro bono lawyer for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which contributed to the report.
“Muslims impacted by this haven’t had a chance to express their views, and we wanted to give them a platform where they could talk about how this program has chilled constitutionally protected activities.”
The report was also produced by the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition and the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility project of the City University of New York School of Law.