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

Video On The Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime bombardment, VOA correspondent finds More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid