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Stop discriminatory surveillance of Muslims in US: Rights group

NYPD said Muslim religion,practices,and community engagement are grounds for scrutiny.

Several Sikh,Hindu and South Asian rights groups have asked the US Justice Department to probe the “discriminatory” surveillance of Muslims by the New York Police Department,saying such religious profiling unfairly “stigmatises” the community members and “breeds distrust”.

These rights groups,among the nearly 120 advocacy groups,in a 12-page letter to the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department,have sought the department’s ‘prompt investigation’ into the NYPD’s ‘discriminatory surveillance’ of American Muslim communities.

The groups said the NYPD’s own documents show that for over a decade the department engaged in “unlawful religious profiling and suspicionless surveillance of Muslims in New York City (and beyond).

“In the letter to Acting Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division Jocelyn Samuels and Chief of the Special Litigation Section Jonathan Smith,the groups said the surveillance is based on the “false and unconstitutional” premise,reflected in the NYPD’s published ‘radicalisation’ theory,that Muslim religious belief,practices,and community engagement are grounds for law enforcement scrutiny.

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“That is a premise rooted in ignorance and bias: it is wrong and unfairly stigmatises Muslims,who are a law-abiding,diverse,and integral part of our nation and New York City,” the letter said.

The letter was accompanied with various NYPD documents and investigative reports that highlighted how the department used informants to record sermons and spy on Mosques and imams without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing and how the

NYPD’s unlawful policies and practices caused ‘harm’ to Muslims.


The letter said that the NYPD’s surveillance programme has had far-reaching and “deeply negative” effects on Muslims’ constitutional rights by chilling speech and religious practice and harming religious goals and missions.

“It has frayed the social fabric of Muslim communities by breeding anxiety,distrust,and fear. The NYPD’s biased policing practices hurt not only Muslims,but all communities who rightfully expect that law enforcement will serve and protect America’s diverse population equally,without discrimination,” it added.

The groups noted that investigation can be conducted into the activities of law enforcements agencies if their conduct deprives people of their rights and privileges.


“A Department of Justice investigation is warranted here. The Civil Rights Division (should) promptly investigate the NYPD’s unconstitutional programme of religious profiling and suspicionless surveillance of Muslims,” it added.

“The NYPD’s unconstitutional mapping and surveillance of American Muslims is religious,racial,and ethnic discrimination at its worst,” Hilary O Shelton,director

of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau,said in a statement.

“Just as the Civil Rights Division has investigated and sanctioned police departments for biased profiling based on race and ethnicity,it should investigate the NYPD for profiling based on religion,” he said.

Among the groups are American Civil Liberties Union,Asian Americans Advancing Justice,Council on American Islamic Relations,Hindu American Foundation,Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund,South Asian Americans Leading Together,Sikh Coalition,American Muslim Advisory Council,Muslim Bar Association of New York,Raksha Inc,Adhikaar,ASHA for Women and DRUM – Desis Rising Up & Moving.

First published on: 25-10-2013 at 09:18 IST
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