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

Kurdish Party Pushes Political Gamble to Run in Turkey Poll

HDP announces it will run as political party instead of fielding independent candidates in June election, but faces tough 10 percent threshold More

Twitter Targets Islamic State

New research shows suspending Twitter accounts of Islamic State, its supporters has been effective; group, its backers are facing 'significant pressure,' says terrorism expert More

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

Majur Juac made the leap from being a refugee in Africa to a master chess champion in US, where he shares his expertise with students More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid