Sarah Gonzalez, Reporter, WNYC/NJPR
Sarah Gonzalez is the northern New Jersey enterprise reporter for WNYC and NJPR.
A federal judge's dismissal of a civil rights lawsuit brought against the NYPD is reverberating through New Jersey's Muslim community.
U.S. District Judge William Martini on Thursday dismissed the case brought on by eight Muslims who claimed police singled them out for their religious beliefs when they were spied on at Garden State mosques and restaurants and at Rutgers University.
The NYPD’s surveillance program was meant to identify budding terrorists after the 9/11 attacks.
The judge ruled the program was not a civil rights violation, writing that the plaintiffs were not targeted “solely because of their religion.”
Walking in downtown Newark, Alaa Fouz, a Muslim who wears a hijab, or headscarf, said the ruling seems flawed.
“I think it’s the wrong idea,” Fouz said. “Not only because I am Muslim, I am terrorist, no.”
The judge wrote that the program was meant to “find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary, law-abiding Muslims,” and that police needed to look in Muslim communities.
Fouz says she doesn’t worry about being spied on, but says the ruling makes those in her community feel less welcome.
“They look at you like you’re a stranger,” Fouz said. “I think Muslims don’t feel comfortable here. They are bothered.”