By Saeed Shabazz -Staff Writer-
NEWARK (FinalCall.com) – Imam Mustafa El-Amin of Newark’s Masjid Ibrahim admits to being frustrated since New Jersey law enforcement officials refuse to answer his questions about New York City Police Department surveillance of his masjid and its members, and whether the snooping has stopped.
“I have not heard from anyone that can assure us that it (spying) is still not going on,” Imam El-Amin told The Final Call.
There are also questions concerning the extent of the surveillance, he said, “such as did they follow my children; tap my telephone and no one gives any answers!”
In recent months the Associated Press has revealed details concerning the NYPD’s surveillance programs which have been characterized by activists as a systematic campaign of religious and ethnic profiling. In Feb. the AP released a 60-page report that had been compiled “secretly” by the NYPD concerning the monitoring or surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey, with an extensive mapping program showing the location of masjids, mosques and Muslim-owned businesses as well as detailing where Muslims ate and shopped.
Imam El-Amin has attended meetings in Trenton Feb. 3, the capital of New Jersey, where the N.J. attorney general and federal law enforcement representatives said they would look into the NYPD Muslim monitoring program, but would not say an official investigation would be launched.
The “NYPD Secret Demographics Report” said in its “overview” on page five: “The Demographic Unit conducted a joint operation with the Newark Police Dept.’s Criminal Intelligence Unit. The operation examined the City of Newark, NJ in an effort to identify the existence of population centers and business districts of communities of interest.”
In the report summary, NYPD said it “identified” a “significant” West African population, the largest being Nigerians. “There appears to be a sizeable and growing non-immigrant African American Muslim population. A large number of the identified locations are supported by this population,” it added.
Pakistani, Turkish, Egyptian, Palestinian and Guyanese houses of worship and businesses were also profiled, according to the NYPD report. The report made no mention of acts of terrorism or any criminal activity.
NYC police commissioner Raymond Kelly has defended his department’s spying across the Hudson River, saying that 746 New Jersey residents were killed on 9-11.
Some see violations of civil rights. Linda Sarsour, director of the Arab American Association of New York and the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition told The Final Call the NYPD was quite specifi c about who they wanted to profile.
“This is what we now know,” she said. “They created a category known as ‘ancestors of interest,’ which specifi ed 29-nations which are predominately Arab or Muslim; and they created a special category for Black Muslims.”
Student Min. Abdul Hafeez Muhammad of the Nation of Islam’s historic Mosque No. 7 in Harlem said he has no tangible evidence pointing to any NYPD spying at the mosque. But, he added, “There is a camera on a light pole on the block where the mosque is located.” The mosque is located at 127th St. and Malcolm X Blvd., and there is no stoplight at the corner. “We follow the policies established by the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam; that if we see something wrong, or hear anything, we will report it,” Mr. Muhammad stressed.
Attorney Abdul Arif Muhammad, the N.O.I. general counsel, said the surveillance regime of the NYPD has much to do with spreading fear of Muslims to the general population. “A lot of Americans have been influenced by the media craze that Muslims want to kill Americans,” Atty. Arif Muhammad said. This is the same type of hysteria created by Sen. Joseph Mc- Carthy in the 1950s against Communism, he added.
And they continue to use 9-11 as a backdrop for their anti-Muslim rhetoric, the attorney continued. “The issue requires the unity of those affected by this in New York and New Jersey,” he said. However, March 5 an Arizona-based organization called the American Islamic Forum for Democracy was part of a demonstration in front of NYPD headquarters in lower Manhattan with banners that read: “American Muslims Support NYPD.”
The group, which has been derided by critics, with some 20 members was joined by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee. Organization founder Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, reportedly narrator of controversial documentary used by the NYPD as a training fi lm, was present. Commissioner Kelly appears in the documentary, and has since tried to distance himself from the film.
The Newark Star-Ledger reported that two New Jersey congressmen, Sen. Robert Menendez (D) and Rep. Bill Pascrell (D), have called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to probe the NYPD operation.
Francis A. Boyle, PhD., a law professor at the University of Illinois- Champaign, told The Final Call Arabs and Muslims have to get organized and stop assuming the Federal Bureau of Investigation is their friend. “My advice is not to cooperate with the FBI, something that African Americans learned in the 1960s,” Prof. Boyle said, referring to the FBICOINTELPRO domestic spying program.
“It’s the same old FBI, now they are going after Arabs and Muslims; when they are invited in by Muslims, they are not interested in taking a real look at what is going on–that’s used as a pretext– the FBI infiltrates your organization with agent provocateurs,” Prof. Boyle warned.
The lawyer, author and activist said Arabs and Muslims must band together, set up watch committees, and become more informed about their rights.
The ACLU in Connecticut has joined with other civil rights organizations in asking the state police to investigate NYPD’s “unlawful” racial profi ling. It was also reported that the Connecticut ACLU fi led requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
Ms. Sarsour said a team of litigators is exploring the possibilities of class action lawsuits. “They are in the process of looking for plaintiffs for the class action suits,” Ms. Sarsour said.
In the meantime, Kali Akuno, executive director of the Atlantabased U.S. Human Rights Network, said Americans must not see this latest round of profi ling as an aberration, but as a systemic violation of the human rights. “What is happening to Muslims in New York and New Jersey is happening across the country; a systemic program by the government to contain and control its citizens within its own borders,” Mr. Akuno said. The NYPD surveillance program is a topic that should be discussed before the 47-member UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, he argued. “We are working with the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU in trying to get some direct testimony before the UN,” he said.
Prof. Boyle is encouraging all concerned with police spying on Arabs and Muslims to organize a national discussion on the way forward. “Min. Farrakhan is directly on point in everything he is saying on this subject; and I believe he should lead the national discussion,” Prof. Boyle said.
The professor downloaded a 66-page e-book published by the N.O.I., “Under Siege: NDAA, Islamaphobia and the Jewish Lobby.”
“I understand that after 9-11, Muslims are terrifi ed, and they have to do what they have to do. I am not criticizing anyone. But, what I am saying is that Min. Farrakhan shows no fear,” Prof. Boyle said.
There is an interview in the pamphlet that Min. Farrakhan conducted with Al-Jazeera television: “The American people, I believe, are being deceived by a government that was absolutely afraid of the growth of Islam in America.
And they needed something to gather the American people, and under Zionist infl uence, stop the spread of Islam, and frighten the immigrant Muslims in America so that they would not speak up,” he said.
Min. Farrakhan also said the world is looking to America for leadership, and watching to see how America handles this particular religious issue.
Mauri Salakhan, a human rights activist located in Washington, D.C., describes himself as a “grassroots” member of the national Coalition of African American Muslims, which was formed in 2010. “I am very concerned about what is happening in New York and New Jersey, and all over the country. Things are getting worse for Muslims,” he said. “We as a community must push back against this madness.”
The coalition sees offering solutions to these problems and giving advice to the growing number of Blacks in America who are followers of Islam as part of its mission, he said.
FinalCall.com Special Report: Under Siege: NDAA Islamophobia and the Israel Lobby