Targeted Muslims in NJ Say Reports of NYPD Spying Are 'Shocking'

Thursday, February 23, 2012

NYPD, police, New York Police Department (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

A day after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie described reports of NYPD surveillance targeting Muslims in Newark as “disturbing,” many of those monitored said they were stunned to learn that the department had singled out their businesses, schools and mosques.

Hamidah Abdullah, 66, owns a Newark restaurant/ body shop that was among the dozens of Muslim-owned establishments listed as under surveillance in an NYPD document obtained by the Associated Press.

“I’d like to know if they had the nerve to come in and place something in the store…because we’re all interested in that,” she said. “Now you’re talking about civil liberties, that is invading your privacy if they were in our establishment with surveillance cameras.”

Abdullah runs the business with her husband and said the police should focus on crime rather than singling out Muslims.

"What they need to be focusing on is the drug dealers on Broad Street and Branford Place,” she said, “that’s what they need to be focusing on because the Muslims aren’t doing anything down here.”

On Thursday, Senator Bob Menendez sent a letter on Thursday to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and CIA Director David Petraeus saying he was concerned about the recent revelations and asking whether appropriate procedures and protocols were followed with regard to informing New Jersey law enforcement officials.

He's the first U.S. senator to make such a request, although 34 members of Congress have asked DOJ for a similar investigation. The ACLU had demanded further investigation.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has defended the practice, but Newark Mayor Cory Booker and his top police official say the city was misled by the NYPD.

The NYPD photographed mosques and eavesdropped on conversations in businesses frequented by Muslims in Newark, according to the Associated Press.

Shazim Ali, 34, said he was shocked to find out his Halal poultry shop was being monitored by the department. Ali, who was born in Guyana, his brother, uncle and father run the Bellville, N.J. shop. They are all Muslim.

“It’s shocking to know that you can’t go about your business without people looking out for you like you’re a problem,” he said.

Although he was stunned that he was being monitored, he said he accepts that the department was doing its job.

“Whatever they’re doing it’s perfectly fine with me,” he said. “I look it as a safety for us. There’s good people out there and there’s bad people out there…I have nothing against the law.”

Imam Abdul Kareem Muhammad, 65, is head of Masjid Al-Haqq, one of the 16 mosques on the NYPD list. Like others, his first thought when he heard the news was shock.

“We are law-abiding citizens,” he said, “and I’ll say Muslims are some of the best citizens, not only in this city, but in this state and in this country.”

Muhammad was born in North Carolina and was raised Baptist. He converted to Islam when he moved to New Jersey, and has been head of Masjid Al-Haqq since 1982. He now runs the mosque in a former bar in Newark.

“We’re a great nation and a great country, but we can’t have a double standard, racial profiling is wrong,” he said. “I don’t care the police department or whoever is doing it people are entitled to their privacy.”


Comments [6]

Mansoor Khan from Brooklyn, NY

@AL Safer. I won't even try to argue the absurd statement that there are 'thousands of people around the world killing people and doing terrorist acts and spreading ignorance and hatred "in the name of Muslim," "using Muslim as cover."' But I will point out that the use violence to promote a political agenda is not unique to Muslims. Maybe you forgot about the murder of Dr. Tiller, the Oklahoma City bombing, and Anders Breivik (Norway). These do not even cover the garden variety stuff such as plots to bomb abortion clinics, shoot-outs with cops, etc. Just google "right wing homegrown terrorism" and you will find plenty of examples. Of course you don't consider these guys terrorists. They are just crazy or they are petty criminals. That would get in the way of the neat little story you tell yourself that Muslims are the only ones who engage in terrorism. Am I right?

Feb. 24 2012 12:27 PM

Mr. Dimwit,
Read your comment, my reaction to it (and the reason I wrote what I did) is that for some reason, there are way too many thousands of people around the world killing people and doing terrorist acts and spreading ignorance and hatred "in the name of Muslim," "using Muslim as cover," whatever is the politically acceptable way of saying it. This is a unique phenomenon. We don't know that much about it -- we meaning peaceful americans. that is why my reaction is relief when I hear law enforcement collecting banal information. Ignorance mixed with money, technology and hatred adds up to risk that requires some intel at the least.

Feb. 23 2012 10:05 PM

Yea I second Thorum's comment, nice to see police in the news for policing. Jeez. I'd be worried if nobody in the government was doing this on our behalf, I'd prefer not to have to do it myself.

Feb. 23 2012 10:00 PM

Well, it's a little one-sided on here today, so I hate to spoil the fun, but this 'surveillance' is a waste of time, to say the least. "Edward in Manhattan," I suppose you think that there are no Christians anywhere in the world that are committing crimes in the name of what they believe in? Or is it just that you are busy hunting them all down and shaming them into repentance?
There 'is' no Muslim authority that can just go around and catch crooks and criminals, just as there is no overriding such authority in the Western religious institutions. And if you haven't heard, there are many, many Muslim groups that have come out in the public media and spoken against all acts of violence under a religious pretense.
"Thorum," you make an easy statement to the NYPD, thanks and good work. Well, I say that too. But that in no way sufficiently addresses what this article is about. And by the way, there are many people, the Governor being one, that also think that this type of surveillance is questionable and "disturbing," to quote the article.
Obviously, nobody wants the bad guys out there (of all colors and creed) to get away with crimes and violence. Two pertinent questions arise from the incident, the first is that we want to use our police and our public resources in the best way, so is this worth the effort and expense? If so, show some results of all the supposed radical Muslims we caught in this particular manner. And then compare that to the expenditure and other alternatives toward stifling terrorism and violence.
The second question, where do you draw the line of privacy and citizen rights and how far can authorities reasonably go beyond that line? I'm sure, Thorum, you would appreciate spying on your church and your friends and your home and your personal group affiliations? There are criminals and bad people everywhere in our world and in all levels of our society. Would you rather have a 'police state,' like Syria for example, where they are killing their own people and labeling them rebels and civil criminals because they disagree with their leaders? There must be very significant and practical reasons to cross that agreed upon line between citizens and their state/nation. That has not been proven by anyone here in the U.S. and within our religious institutions. There certainly is trouble coming from other countries, which are not directly connected to the American public (allowing for the typical percentage of criminal behavior in a given society).

Feb. 23 2012 08:29 PM

Muslims say shocking. I say thanks NYPD for looking out!! Keep up the good work!

Feb. 23 2012 07:57 PM
Edward Weinberger from Manhattan

Recent spiritual leaders say that the best of all religions lead to the same place --- a place of deep understanding and universal compassion. I therefore expect that Islam, a religion that I know little about, is no exception.

That said, I would be a lot more sympathetic to the outcry over surveillance specific to American Muslims if there was as much of an outcry in that community over Muslims partcipating in terrorism.

Feb. 23 2012 05:24 PM

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