NEWARK (CN) – The New York Police Department has been infiltrating and spying on New Jersey Muslims-in mosques, at their jobs, in stores and restaurants, even in elementary schools-simply because of their religion, Muslim groups claim in Federal Court.
The plaintiffs claim New York City’s “blanket surveillance of Muslims casts guilt on all people of that faith by suggesting that Muslims pose a special threat to public safety.”
Plaintiffs Syed Farhaj Hassan, The Council of Imams in New Jersey, Muslim Students Association of the U.S. & Canada, All Body Shop Inside & Outside, Unity Beef Sausage Co., Muslim Foundation, Moiz Mohammed and Jane Doe sued The City of New York.
“In early 2002,” the complaint states, “the NYPD began a secret spying program to infiltrate and monitor Muslim life in and around New York City. The department has focused, in particular, upon New Jersey Muslims, conducting surveillance of at least twenty mosques, fourteen restaurants, eleven retail stores, two grade schools and two Muslim Student Associations, in addition to untold numbers of individuals who own, operate and visit those establishments. The department has also created over twenty precinct-level maps of the City of Newark, noting the location of mosques and Muslim businesses and the ethic composition of the Muslim community.
“As part of the program, the NYPD takes photographs and videos and collects license plate numbers at the mosques. It also utilizes undercover officers and informants to infiltrate and surveil Muslim communities, including mosques, Muslim Student Associations and Muslim-owned businesses. Upon and belief, the NYPD has not undertaken similar surveillance with respect to non-Muslim communities.”
Toward the end of the 25-page complaint, the plaintiffs add: “New York City officials have made clear that they believe the NYPD’s targeting of Muslims for surveillance on the basis of their religion is appropriate and will continue. Discussing the surveillance, Mayor Bloomberg has stated publicly, ‘We’re doing the right thing. We will continue to do the right thing.’ …
“Under our Constitution, however, what the NYPD may not do is to continue to target Muslims for investigation and pervasive surveillance simply because they are Muslim.”
The plaintiffs seek an injunction, nominal damages for constitutional violations, and expungement of all records obtained through the police spying.
They are represented by Ravinder Bhalla with the Law Offices of Bhalla & Cho, of Jersey City.