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Islamophobia in USA: NYPD Even Spied on the Muslim Leaders Who Were Helping Them

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  • Zafar Khan
    NYPD Even Spied on the Muslim Leaders Who Were Helping Them By Joe Coscarelli http://online.wsj.com/article/APeae6c489a6d742f18329653e87bb084a.html NEW YORK
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 28, 2012
      NYPD Even Spied on the Muslim Leaders Who Were Helping Them
      By Joe Coscarelli


      NEW YORK — Egyptian sheik Reda Shata considered himself a partner in New York's fight against terrorism. He cooperated with the police and FBI, invited officers to his mosque for breakfast, even dined with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

      Despite the handshakes and photo ops, however, the New York Police Department was all the while watching him. Even as Shata's story was splashed across the front page of The New York Times in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series about Muslims in America, an undercover officer and an informant were assigned to monitor him, and two others kept tabs on his mosque that same year.

      An Associated Press investigation has found that the NYPD dispatched undercover officers into ethnic communities to monitor daily life and scrutinized more than 250 mosques and Muslim student groups in the years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Some of its programs were developed with the help of seasoned CIA officers.

      "What did they find?" Shata asked through an interpreter at his current mosque in Monmouth County, N.J., after learning about the secret surveillance. "It's a waste of time and a waste of money."

      Shata welcomed FBI agents to his mosque to speak to Muslims, invited NYPD officers for breakfast and threw parties for officers who were leaving the precinct during his time at the Islamic Center of Bay Ridge. As police secretly watched him in 2006, he had breakfast and dinner with Bloomberg at Gracie Mansion and was invited to meet with Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Shata recalls.

      "This is very sad," he said after seeing his name in the NYPD file. "What is your feeling if you see this about people you trusted?"

      This was life in America for Shata: a government partner in the fight against terrorism and a suspect at the same time.

      The dichotomy between simultaneously being partner and suspect is common among some of New York's Muslims. Some of the same mosques that city leaders visited to hail their strong alliances with the Muslim community have also been placed under NYPD surveillance — in some cases infiltrated by undercover police officers and informants.

      In April, more than 100 area imams publicly supported a rally to "oppose wars, condemn terrorism and fight Islamophobia." Of those, more than 30 were either identified by name or work in mosques included in the NYPD's 2006 listing of suspicious people and places.

      "The way things are playing out in New York does not paint a picture of partnership and of a conversation among equals," said Ramzi Kassem, a professor at the City University of New York School of Law. "It seems that city officials prefer hosting Ramadan banquets to engaging with citizens who wish to hold them to account. Spying on almost every aspect of community life certainly does not signal a desire to engage constructively."

      On Wednesday, seven New York Democratic state senators called for the state attorney general to investigate the NYPD's spying on Muslim neighborhoods. And last month, the CIA announced an inspector general investigation into the agency's partnership with the NYPD.

      A small number of Capitol Hill and New York lawmakers have called for greater oversight and controls over the police department's intelligence unit. But most in politics, including President Barack Obama, have shown no interest in even talking about what the NYPD is doing, much less saying whether they support it.

      NYPD spokesman Paul Browne did not return messages over two days. Bloomberg's office, which has repeatedly referred questions to the NYPD, also did not respond.

      Liberal members of New York City Council and Muslim and civil rights groups plan to publicly raise questions Thursday about the police department's tactics in the years since 9/11.

      The spying has not been limited to Shata.

      In May, Bloomberg and Kelly organized a news conference to discuss two suspected terrorists. Appearing with the officials was Mohammad Shamsi Ali, an imam regularly at the mayor's side for public appearances that touch on Muslim issues. Shamsi Ali said he and the mayor have maintained good communication over the years. In July, he was invited to a pre-Ramadan conference hosted by the NYPD, and for the past three years he said he has been invited to speak at the police academy about Islam and Muslims.

      Yet in 2006, the NYPD infiltrated two mosques where Shamsi Ali holds leadership roles — the Islamic Cultural Center of New York and the Jamaica Muslim Center. The NYPD cited radical rhetoric and possible money laundering in the Islamic Cultural Center of New York and said the Jamaica Muslim Center was a hub of radicalization that offered martial arts training. Shamsi Ali said he was unaware of the police assessments and denied the underlying accusations.

      "How do you define rhetoric?" Shamsi Ali asked. He said some imams sound harsh when they're preaching. And, if the NYPD suspected money laundering, it should ask the Internal Revenue Service to audit the mosque, he said.

      "It's wrong to view Muslims as radicals simply because of the outfit," Shamsi Ali said.

      Last year, after a Pakistani-American man was accused of attempting to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, Kelly, the police commissioner, visited the Al-Iman mosque in Astoria, Queens, where he praised a Muslim street vendor for reporting the suspicious vehicle to local police. Kelly assured members of the mosque that racial profiling is prohibited by the police, though he acknowledged in response to a question that officers will conduct random checks of people who fit a particular description.

      Yet in 2006, the NYPD recorded in its files that members of the same mosque belonged to extremist organizations that harbored anti-American sentiments and terrorist sympathies. That mosque was placed under surveillance by an undercover NYPD officer and a confidential informant, according to the police files.

      In October 2006, the president of the Brooklyn borough attended an event on the final day of Ramadan at Brooklyn's Makki Masjid. The borough president, Marty Markowitz, described his Muslim neighbors as "like every other group in our fabric — successful, community-minded contributors who improve our quality of life." Meanwhile, the NYPD recorded in its files that Makki Masjid was a "Tier One" mosque because of its members' radical Islamic views.

      Two Queens mosques that the NYPD was monitoring in 2006 — one because it was suspected of funding the Taliban and another that the department described as the national headquarters of an extremist organization — are listed as "destination options" in a 2009 official city planning brochure for a bike tour of Queens intended to promote the community's diversity.

      Shamsi Ali said he was not surprised to learn that police were secretly listening inside his mosques.

      "Everywhere that I go, I feel someone must be listening to me," Shamsi Ali said. "As long as I do things according to law, I don't have to worry at all."

      The New York Times story about Shata, which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, described his efforts to reconcile Muslim traditions with American life. Police documents from the same year the story was published described Shata, who emigrated from Egypt in 2002, as a "Tier One" person of interest. According to the police files, a person of interest is "an individual with threat potential based on their position at a particular location, links to an organization, overseas links and/or criminal history."

      Mark Mershon, the FBI's senior agent in New York in 2006, said he has no recollection of Shata ever being under FBI investigation. A search of commonly used court and public record files show no evidence of any criminal record for Shata.

      Shata said he still considers Bloomberg his friend, but he was hurt by what he saw in the police files.

      "You were loving people very much, and then all of a sudden you get shocked," Shata said. "It's a bitter feeling."

      Hateful Film
      Published: January 24, 2012


      There is absolutely no excuse for the New York Police Department’s decision to show a hate-filled film about Muslims to more than 1,400 city police officers.

      Relations between police and the diverse Muslim community are already tense after The Associated Press uncovered aggressive surveillance of Muslims, including American citizens. The propaganda of this film will only damage those relations further and make law enforcement more difficult.

      The film shows some of the grisliest jihadist terrorists attacks in recent years and argues that the real agenda for Islamists in America is to infiltrate and dominate the country. The department said at first that it was shown to only a handful of officers, but that proved to be false when the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University obtained police records through the courts after a nine-month struggle. Police documents show some confusion over where the film, “The Third Jihad,” came from — possibly a contractor — and how it kept running for three months to a year in a conference area.

      Paul Browne, a Police Department spokesman, said the officer responsible for making sure the film ran “on a continuous loop” while officers were filling out papers has been disciplined. That is not remotely enough.

      Mr. Browne said Commissioner Raymond Kelly found the film objectionable. Mr. Kelly should apologize for the film, which was financed and distributed by the conservative Clarion Fund, and he should make clear that his department does not tolerate such noxious and dangerous stereotyping.

      Mayor Bloomberg Disavows Use of Anti-Muslim Movie in Police Training
      January 24, 2012 6:35pm | By Jill Colvin, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer


      MANHATTAN — Mayor Michael Bloomberg slammed police for exercising "terrible judgment" when they repeatedly played a controversial film that portrayed Islam as dangerous to nearly 1,500 new recruits.
      Police brass originally said the film, "The Third Jihad," had been mistakenly screened "a couple of times" to new recruits during training.
      But the New York Times reported Tuesday that the film had actually been played to new recruits "on a continuous loop" for up to a year, further straining already tense relations between the NYPD and the city’s Muslim community.

      NYPD Spying On Muslim College Kids Now


      The NYPD's controversial spying programs don't just include "sending undercover officers into ethnic and Muslim neighborhoods to act like 'a human camera' and 'map the human terrain' in mosques, hookah bars, and Internet cafes." Turns out they also involve flat out spying on college students. And students, faculty and legal experts are, understandably, furious. The multi-year police operation violates U.S. privacy laws and could jeopardize millions of dollars in federal research money and student aid.

      Gingrich's Anti-Muslim Sugar Daddy Funded Film Shown To NYPD
      —By Adam Serwer| Tue Jan. 24, 2012 9:00 AM PST


      In Police Training, a Dark Film on U.S. Muslims
      Published: January 23, 2012


      CAIR Asks NYPD to Probe Use of Anti-Muslim Training Film
      PR Newswire
      NEW YORK, Jan. 19, 2011


      CAIR Calls for Reform of FBI's Training on Islam, Muslims


      Attacker of Islamic centre 'hated all Muslims'
      Press Trust of India, Updated: January 06, 2012 20:15 IST


      New York: The New York man, facing hate crime charges for attacking an Islamic centre and a Hindu temple, went about throwing molotov cocktails at the places as he "hated all Muslims and Arabs" for trying to take over his life and wanted to inflict the maximum damage to them.

      Ray Lazier Lengend, 40, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison on hate crime and arson charges.

      He told police authorities that he attacked the centres over the weekend as he believed Muslims were trying to take over his life.

      Lengend, a naturalised US citizen from Guyana, is currently being held in a Manhattan hospital where he is undergoing medical treatment.

      According to a court document provided by the Queens District Attorney's Office, Lengend told police "in response to being asked why he would attack a mosque, the defendant stated that he hated all the Muslims and Arabs because they were trying to take over his life. They have been doing it for 40 years".

      Lengend has been arraigned and is being held without bail.

      He has told police he wanted to "inflict as much damage as possible and take out as many Muslims and Arabs as possible" by throwing firebombs at them.

      The unemployed truck driver hurled the firebombs at five locations across Queens near here on New Year's day, including at an Islamic centre, a home that housed a temple and a convenience store.

      He had also cited personal grudges for not being allowed to use the toilet at the centre and for being thrown out of the store for shoplifting as reasons he was upset with the owners of the place.

      Four firebombs, including one tossed at Qns. mosque, eyed as hate crimes
      Monday, January 02, 2012


      Four Attacks in Queens With Homemade Firebombs
      Published: January 2, 2012


      WordPress Removes Hate Blog


      Victoria Jackson: Muslim Brotherhood Taking Over America, Six Hour FBI Meeting


      Former "Saturday Night Live" actress Victoria Jackson, working on confidential information she has special clearance to obtain as a web talk-show host, has claimed that the United States is being overtaken by radical Muslims bent on bringing the nation under Sharia law.

      "I just went to a briefing in Washington, D.C., across the street from the Capitol, at the Longworth building at 8:30 am two days ago and it changed my life," Jackson said last week on her web show, "Politichicks." "For six hours, I saw pictures and names and dates and facts and Islamic law books and Korans, Surahs for six hours and they proved to me ... that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated our highest positions in government and this is serious."

      Philadelphia Muslims Says Proposed Pa. Law Attempts To Demonize Them
      December 14, 2011 1:06 PM


      TCC professor's lecture on Islam stirs controversy
      Muslim students question lecture; professor recommends expulsion
      By Diane Smith


      Posted on November 23, 2011 at 9:41am by Billy Hallowell


      Muslim TV series spurs backlash
      Ad boycott in question over TLC show


      The TLC series "All-American Muslim" is prompting complaints from right-wing extremist groups claiming they've successfully pressured advertisers to pull out of the program.
      One such organization, Florida Family Association, posted an e-mail on its website that it alleges to have received from national retailer Lowe's Home Centers indicating that the company has withdrawn commercials. "There are certain programs that do not meet Lowe's advertising guidelines, including the show you brought to our attention."

      That letter in turn spurred reaction Thursday from Muslim civil-liberties group Council on American-Islamic Relations decrying the withdrawal. "Some 'All-American Muslim' advertisers have apparently buckled to the hate-filled views of the boycott's promoters," read a CAIR press release.

      A spokeswoman for Lowe's confirmed Friday morning that the e-mail came from her company but she clarified that the decision to withdraw advertising was not "based solely on the complaints or emails of any one particular group. We will pull our advertising on shows if we learn there are issues raised from a broad spectrum of customers and viewers who represent multiple perspectives, which Lowe's understands was the case in this situation with this particular show."

      A TLC spokeswoman declined comment.

      "Muslim" is an unscripted series that premiered last month on the Discovery Networks-owned cable channel following the lives of a group of middle-class American Muslim families in Dearborn, Mich.

      FFA, which states its goal as "improving America's moral environment" in its mission statement, has criticized the series for being "propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values."

      CAIR also calls out several other groups that have websites inviting its visitors to fill out forms that send messages lamenting "Muslim" to participating advertisers. These orgs claim to have prompted a number of marketers to pull out of the show, though in some cases messages from those companies posted online don't suggest they are doing so in response to calls for boycott.

      "The program's detractors are using every stereotype in the book to defame American Muslims and to demonize Islam," said Nihad Awad, national executive direcor of CAIR in a statement.

      Lowe's also issued its clarification via its Twitter account in response to a surge of tweets from users upset that the company could have pulled out of "Muslim" due to pressure from hate groups. "Dear @lowes you can kiss my business good bye," tweeted @ArabVoicesSpeak.

      Contact Andrew Wallenstein at andrew.wallenstein@...

      'All-American Muslim,' business and bigotry: Lowe's pulls advertisements from TLC series (column)


      Saline High School Student Charged With Ethnic Intimidation
      December 7, 2011 8:58 AM


      District judge dismisses charge against Muslim woman
      Tuesday, December 06, 2011
      By Moriah Balingit, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


      A district judge this morning dismissed a summary disorderly conduct charge against a woman who claimed she was harassed by Baldwin Borough police for being Muslim.

      Krysti Swanson was cited Sept. 18 after police stopped her, her husband and two children as they picked flowers along railroad tracks in Baldwin after police got a report of two masked men driving towards the tracks.

      Police said the woman, dressed in Muslim garb that concealed all but her eyes, became irate when they began questioning her husband, charging they were harassing her, and waved flowers in an officer's face. She was handcuffed and placed in a patrol car, which agitated her further, because her faith prohibits her from touching men outside her family.

      Her attorney, James Love, referred to her after she contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that it's not a crime to question police, nor is it a crime to refuse to produce identification. He also noted that the report never indicated that she waved flowers in an officer's face.

      In dismissing the charge, District Judge John Bova said he did not believe police had done anything wrong.

      "Both sides should be more sensitive towards each other," he said.

      Ms. Swanson declined comment through her attorney after leaving the district court in Baldwin. Mr. Love said he did not know if she plans to pursue further legal action.

      Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@... or 412-263-2533.

      Fanning The Flames: New Jacksonville Jaguars Owner’s Muslim Faith Stirs Stupidity
      Posted on 05 December 2011


      Sikh man stabbed waiting for plane at Fresno airport
      By Alex Tavlian - The Fresno Bee
      Sunday, Dec. 04, 2011 | 08:06 PM


      FBI illegally using community outreach to gather intelligence, ACLU alleges


      San Jose man punched, called 'terrorist' on grocery trip to Lucky
      By Lisa Fernandez
      Posted: 12/01/2011 09:19:10 AM PST


      FBI ran background checks on Muslims at community outreach events
      Documents show the FBI recorded personal information at events designed to improve the bureau's relations with Muslims
      Associated Press
      guardian.co.uk, Thursday 1 December 2011 20.53 GMT

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