In September 2011, the Associated Press began its investigation of the New York Police Department’s specific targeting of American Muslims. Members of the NYPD were found to have spied on Muslim religious centers, workplaces and student associations at local colleges (some of which were not even in New York City), often without any evidence of wrongdoing.
Upon learning of these privacy breaches, national religious leaders wrote a joint letter to Mayor Bloomberg under the coordination of the Shoulder-to-Shoulder Campaign, encouraging an investigation into the activities of the NYPD.
The letter, which was signed by Mark Pelavin (Senior Vice President of the URJ), reads: “As religious leaders, we are concerned that constitutionally-protected activities, like religious practice and assembly, have been cited as possible reasons to suspect criminal activity. Additionally, we bear a sacred responsibility to honor America’s varied faith traditions and to promote a culture of mutual respect and the assurance of religious freedom for all.”
This week, the AP released further findings, including testimony from a June 28 deposition of NYPD Assistant Chief Thomas Galati: “In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department’s secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation.”
Civil Liberties attorney Jethro Eisenstein, who questioned Galati, hopes to return to court to request that, based on this information, the Demographics Unit be shut down. He went as far as to say, “No other group since the Japanese Americans in World War II has been subjected to this kind of widespread public policy.”
Here at the RAC we continue to stand up against Islamophobia. To read more about our work standing up against anti-Muslim sentiment visit the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign.