Report: NYPD eyes Muslim communities on LIBy VÍCTOR MANUEL RAMOS
February 23, 2012
The New York Police Department has been watching "communities of interest" on Long Island as part of its effort to identify places that Muslims frequent in the region, according to internal agency documents and reports published by The Associated Press.
The monitoring has been part of the NYPD's counterterrorism efforts beyond the city in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Demographic reports compiled for the department in 2006 and 2007 map and list religious institutions, schools and businesses owned, managed and visited by Muslims in Nassau and Suffolk. It's not known whether the NYPD is still monitoring the sites. The documents list everything from mosques to small shops identified for surveillance.
Examples include a halal meat store in Valley Stream where the report noted a TV was "tuned to the Al-Jazeera network" or a 99-cent store in Smithtown where there were "framed verses from Quran [sic] hanging on the wall behind the counter."
The revelations of the NYPD's monitoring come as the department and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have defended the gathering of intelligence, amid criticism from Muslim and civil liberties advocates likening the practice to profiling.
The city has denied it targets specific groups. A similar report on Muslims in Newark surfaced Wednesday and Mayor Cory Booker told the AP he had never authorized the surveillance. Long Island's Muslim leaders said the monitoring was unwarranted.
"It's profiling and surveilling American citizens without any due process, without any reasons or validity," said Faroque Khan, of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury.
The NYPD did not respond to requests for comment. Officials in Nassau and Suffolk said they were unaware of the program.
Nassau police Deputy Insp. Kenneth Lack said the NYPD "could operate within the confines of Nassau County without our knowledge or participation."
The Suffolk Police Department does not oppose the NYPD's work in the county, said Deputy Inspector Kevin Fallon.
"New York City is the primary terrorist target in the world and the New York City Police Department follows anti-terrorism tactics as they deem fit," Fallon said.
Aides to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano did not say whether he was aware of the surveillance, while Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone said the county would not take part. "Suffolk County doesn't conduct surveillance or monitoring of religious institutions or any person based on race, ethnicity or religion," he said in a statement.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said he's a supporter of the NYPD monitoring program.
"Put it this way: It'd be criminal negligence if they didn't do what they're doing," he said, adding, "Cops aren't just running around looking at people. If they are going into particular areas, there's a reason for it."
Joff Sahin, the owner of the Pita House restaurant in Patchogue, was included in the Suffolk report as a location "owned and operated by Turks."
Sahin said he is not Muslim.
"I am shocked," said Sahin, 50. "This shows the degree of presumption and prejudice that they are going under . . . This is wrong."
The AP also reported that the Muslim Students Association at Stony Brook University had been under electronic surveillance from the NYPD's Cyber Intelligence unit.
"Officials need to get rid of misconception and mistrust, and stop painting the community with one brush because of one minute segment of the population," said Sanaa Nadim, a Muslim chaplain and student association adviser.
Zeshan Hamid was not bothered that his Shaheen Restaurant, a Pakistani eatery in Hicksville, was on the NYPD report.
"It sounds to me like they are just finding out where the Muslims are," said Hamid, 34. "Have they come and harassed me? No. Have they come and impeded me from practicing my faith? No. I am a practicing Muslim and if they want to come and see me in my public space, that's fine with me."