November 4th, 2009 12:52 EST
FBI Harassment of NY Muslims
Many Flushing residents object to their treatment in the wake of a terrorism investigation, and they`re doing something about it.
Almost two months after a suspected terrorist visited New York, setting off a chain of law enforcement activities including police raids of homes in Queens, activists are methodically collecting and recording complaints from Queens residents who allege a spectrum of harassment by law enforcement from verbal abuse to home entry without a warrant. The complaints will be logged by CUNY School of Law and given to Joseph M. Demarest Jr., the assistant director in charge of the FBI`s New York City office "
An entire community and religion should not be profiled because of an investigation, " said Monami Maulik, executive director of the South Asian advocacy group DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), which led a rally last month outside the Flushing branch of the Queens library. Yet some say this is exactly what has happened. In the weeks since the raids, staff from DRUM say they have spoken with more than 100 families in Flushing and have heard numerous stories of people being questioned on their way to or from work, and being asked for identification in their own homes, said organizer Ayesha Mahmooda...
Incidents like these have led DRUM to partner with the CUNY law school on creating a complaint database, and to submit a series of recommendations to the FBI which it believes could help safeguard civil liberties and promote a better relationship between law enforcement and the South Asian community.
The recommendations include creating policy change and accountability mechanisms beyond "diversity training," and ending the use of agent provocateurs in mosques, Muslim businesses, organizations, and other neighborhood sites. This practice makes a racial and religious presumption of criminal activity that is biased, " DRUM`s letter states and lower attendance at mosques in Flushing reflects the current climate of suspicion, some report "
Advocates say the latest series of raids and interviews has rekindled fears in the community that began in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Tensions escalated again in 2007 when the NYPD released a report titled Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat, " which made sweeping generalizations about the city`s Muslim communities.
This September, the NYPD added a statement of clarification " to the two-year-old report (on p. 11-12), which retracts the original report`s statements linking the practice of Islam with terrorism, and states that increasing religiosity among Muslims "cannot be used as a signature of someone potentially becoming a terrorist." It also backs off from the conclusion that our area`s Muslim communities have been "permeated" by radical ideologies.
Faiza N. Ali, community affairs director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY), said the clarification was an important step, but additional measures should be taken in order to safeguard both civil liberties and national safety. They are laid out in a letter to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly from the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition, of which CAIR is part. "We remain concerned that the standing report sends mixed messages: the clarification decouples religion from terrorism but the core language continues to criminalize religious behaviors, " Ali said. The NYPD report risks alienating mainstream Muslims, and if translated into policy, will only deepen mistrust between law enforcement and community members. "