News / USA

NYC Muslim Leaders Cautiously Welcome Disbanding of NYPD Surveillance Unit

As president of the Muslim Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, Imam al Haj Talib Abdur al Rashid worked tirelessly to end secret surveillance and stereotyping of his community by the NYPD. (VOA Photo Adam Phillips)
As president of the Muslim Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, Imam al Haj Talib Abdur al Rashid worked tirelessly to end secret surveillance and stereotyping of his community by the NYPD. (VOA Photo Adam Phillips)
Adam Phillips
The New York City Police Department has disbanded a unit that spied on Muslims in their mosques and community gathering places. Set up in 2003, under then-mayor Michael Bloomberg, the officers' job was ostensibly to gather intelligence on potential terrorist plans and conspiracies.  The city’s diverse Muslim community has long complained about the unit, claiming their constitutional rights were being violated by indiscriminate religious and ethnic profiling.
Maimuna Abdul-Hakim was angered by the intrusion of plainclothes police operatives who spied on her fellow Muslim community members, both in her mosque and in her Harlem neighborhood. (VOA Photo Adam Phillips)Maimuna Abdul-Hakim was angered by the intrusion of plainclothes police operatives who spied on her fellow Muslim community members, both in her mosque and in her Harlem neighborhood. (VOA Photo Adam Phillips)
x
Maimuna Abdul-Hakim was angered by the intrusion of plainclothes police operatives who spied on her fellow Muslim community members, both in her mosque and in her Harlem neighborhood. (VOA Photo Adam Phillips)
Maimuna Abdul-Hakim was angered by the intrusion of plainclothes police operatives who spied on her fellow Muslim community members, both in her mosque and in her Harlem neighborhood. (VOA Photo Adam Phillips)
Like most New Yorkers, Maimuna Abdul-Hakim felt the attacks of 9/11 were a wakeup call for Americans, and increased vigilance was a necessary response; but, this devout member of Harlem’s Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood and mother of three was shocked to learn that her place of worship was being targeted for surveillance by the Demographics Unit of the NYPD.  She says she is glad to learn that it has been disbanded.     

“Especially since I’ve been here my whole life and I have children who come here, and not knowing who these people are, we are kind of kind of a close community; it put my guard up.  So I am happy.  It’s about time," she said.

Abdul Sabir, the mosque’s janitor and a devout Muslim, also welcomes the news.

SABIR:  "I was very relieved.  They are starting to see that we are very peaceful people.  There is no need really to spy on us.  Islam stands for peace. So I was relieved."

REPORTER:  What do you think is going to happen going forward?  Do you trust them?

SABIR: "I trust in Allah [God].  But I am always aware."

Resentment toward former police commissioner Raymond Kelly over the surveillance runs deep within the city’s Muslim leadership, says Imam Al Hajj Talib Abdur al Rashid, president of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York.  

“Many of us throughout the city have tried consistently over the years to have good relations with the NYPD.  Many of the imams conveyed a great sense of betrayal to know that they have been working the NYPD, working with [former] police commissioner Kelly, and all the time they were being spied on.  So there was this dread that the NYPD used them and used the mosque to gain entrance for surveillance.  And as you know, the NYPD surveillance program did not turn up one single lead in all of that looking and all that spying on people," he said.

The imam, however, is cautiously optimistic.  He says that by disbanding the Demographics Unit, Mayor Bill de Blasio has demonstrated his commitment to ending religious, ethnic and racial profiling….       

“… but how that’s going to translate into policy remains to be seen.  There is a real challenge to come up with a 21st century policy of policing for New York -- one that ensures public safety without violating people's civil and human rights.  It’s a challenge; but they get paid to meet challenges," he said.

While Muslim community leaders, the police and the mayor’s office have voiced their commitment to build trust, community advocates say that true healing will come only when they are satisfied that there is no official profiling by any city unit or department.  For their part, officials continue to assert their commitment to doing whatever is necessary and legal to protect all of New York’s citizens from terrorism.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs