By OMAR SACIRBEY ©2014 Religion News Service
Advocates and the Center for Constitutional Rights on March 21 appealed a
federal judge’s ruling that affirmed the right of the New York City Police
Department to spy on Muslims based on their faith and ethnicity.
month, Newark U.S. District Judge William Martini rejected charges of illegal
spying, stating that any harm suffered by the plaintiffs was not because of the
spying program but because of news reports that revealed the secret program in
appeal was filed with the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. “The
message of the decision is that it’s OK to spy on Muslim Americans,” said lead
plaintiff Syed Farhaj Hassan who enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2001 and served
in Iraq in 2003. “It’s a slap in the face to American Muslims who have served
this country, served their community, and served their families by being
peaceful citizens here.”
two legal organizations argue the NYPD violated the constitutional rights of
their clients based on their religion, and caused them harm. They allege fear
of being spied on discouraged Muslims from attending mosque or speaking in
public, and scared them from making charitable contributions to Muslim
lawsuit does not seek money for the plaintiffs, but asks the court to stop NYPD
spying in New Jersey. The suit also asks the court to order the NYPD to expunge
all records of the plaintiffs collected through the spying program.
said internal NYPD documents included a list of 28 “ancestries of interest” and
other policies showing that officers based their spying on the ethnic and
religious background of their targets.
2002, the NYPD has spied on at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail
stores, two Muslim elementary schools, and two Muslim Student Associations on
college campuses in New Jersey, lawyers said. Forms of monitoring include video
surveillance, photographing and community mapping.
lawsuit is the first of three challenging the NYPD program.
is confident of victory, he said, because past civil rights cases, such as Brown
v. Board of Education, also lost their first rounds before winning on
for the plaintiffs also maintained some hope that new New York City Mayor Bill
de Blasio may halt the program. While de Blasio’s predecessor Michael Bloomberg
resisted efforts to stop the NYPD spying program, de Blasio said police should
only investigate people based on leads.
“I’m pretty sure
that when we look back at this, we’re going to be ashamed that we allowed this
type of action to occur,” Hassan said. “There’s no way that peaceful citizens
going about their everyday business should be spied on by police for no reason
other than the color of their skin and the creed in which they believe.”