In the wake of an investigation that reveals that the New York Police Department hunted Muslims based only on their religion, community leaders in the Big Apple are telling Muslims to cut their ties with the NYPD.
An ongoing report from the Associated Press has revealed that in the decade since the September 11 terrorist attacks, the NYPD has carried out a series of initiatives aimed at the Muslim community of New York, often stalking, profiling and secretly surveying followers of Islam solely based on religion. As the investigation continues, their latest report reveals that, fed up with the egregious spying practiced by the Police Department, leaders of the Muslim community are warning residents of New York to avoid talking to the police and instead confide in friends, family and attorneys before going to the authorities.
While the NYPD says that they have triedto strengthen ties with Muslims in the decade since the 9/11 attacks, some feel like the Police Department’s secret Demographics Unit that profiles members of the community has only weakened the relationship. As more information is revealed on the clandestine surveillance carried out by the NYPD and other practices, including the infiltration of mosques and community centers by undercover officers, tensions are tighter than ever between the two groups.
Since the AP’s investigation has begun, it has been revealed that under the command of a CIA-operative, a secret department of the force named the Demographics Unit has spent years training agents to infiltrate Muslim-majority communities and stake out persons and businesses of interest given their ethnicity and religious practices.
At the dawn of their investigation, Mordecai Dzikansky told the AP that he operated from an overseas location to help collect data on Muslims. “It’s not a question of profiling,” he said at the time. “It’s a question of going where the problem could arise. And thank God we have the capability. We have the language capability and the ethnic officers. That’s our hidden weapon.”
Earlier, retired-CIA Chief David Cohen told the AP that the NYPD and CIA were using language capable “ethnic officers” as the Demographic Unit’s “secret weapon” to infiltrate communities.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg responded to allegations in defense of the Unit, which was officially denied by authorities. “We live in a dangerous world, and we have to be very proactive in making sure that we prevent terrorism,” said the mayor. “As the world gets more dangerous, people are willing to have infringements on their personal freedoms that they would not before.”
Bloomberg said in a statement that Muslims should be rejoicing in the security operations carried out by the NYPD, but as information is revealed on the secret surveillance carried out, the community is becoming more and more outraged.
“Most of the time it’s a fishing expedition,” Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York, lectured at a recent “Know Your Rights” session for Brooklyn College Students. “So the safest thing you can do for yourself, your family and for your community is not to answer.”
The AP reports that New York Republican Rep. Peter King responded to Kaseem’s notion by deeming such behavior “disgraceful.” For many Muslims, however, the undercover operations carried out by cops in their neighborhood delis, barbershops and community center is nothing worth praising. Since NYPD officers have admitted to an underground unit using disguised agents to infiltrate the community, a CUNY La School brochures distributed to students now warns Muslims against speaking to anyone they are unfamiliar with.
“Be very careful about involving the police,” the brochure reads. “If the individual is an informant, the police may not do anything … If the individual is not an informant and you report them, the unintended consequences could be devastating.”
Earlier in the AP’s report, the news outlet uncovered documentation showing that the Demographics Unit had gone into Moroccan households in New York and would make note of subjects’ personal belongings and behavior despite lacking any reason to search their residence.