NYPD under fire for surveillance of Muslims, stop-and-frisk policy

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The New York Police Department is under fire from advocacy groups who say the department's spying on the Muslim community has harmed everyday life, curtailing religious practice and speech and making people suspicious of strangers.

The Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition, the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility project, and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund interviewed 57 American Muslims in New York City, including religious figures, youth, business owners, law enforcement officers and mosque-goers. Many of their mosques, businesses and student groups appeared in leaked NYPD documents about the surveillance, says a report (.pdf) the advocacy organizations published earlier this month.

"Interviewees unanimously observed that everyone scrutinizes everyone, noting particular hesitation with regards to new faces in the community, or converts to Islam," the report says.

Fear of the NYPD's surveillance makes Muslims self-censor their political speech and deters them from advocating for Muslim civil rights, the report says. Some parents tell their children not to join Muslim student groups.

"Meetings for political organizing I leave until we can meet in person, and even when we do have in-person meetings, we are all very conscious of what we say and how," said one interviewee, who added that Muslims sometimes hesitate to make jokes that could be misinterpreted by police.

The report also says there is no basis for NYPD's claim that its surveillance has prevented 14 terrorist plots.

The NYPD is also defending its "stop-and-frisk" policy in a class-action case underway in U.S. District Court. There have been more than 5 million stop-and-frisk police encounters under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and about 88 percent did not result in an arrest or summons, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.

"The NYPD's routine abuse of stop-and-frisks is a tremendous waste of police resources, it sows mistrust between officers and the communities they serve, and it routinely violates fundamental rights," Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the NYCLU, said in a press release March 14. About 86 percent of those stopped under the policy were black or Latino, the release also said.

For more:
- download the report, "Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying and its Impact on American Muslims" (.pdf)
- go to the NYCLU press release

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