Members of an Islamic organization stood in front of police headquarters with signs Monday to support the New York Police Department's aggressive counterterrorism efforts, saying the agency is doing what is necessary to protect the city - and its Muslims.
About three dozen American Muslim activists participated in the public assembly to defend and commend the Police Department for its handling of the surveillance of Muslim communities.
"We are not here to criticize the N.Y.P.D., but rather to thank them for the monitoring of extremists that the Muslims should be doing," said M. Zuhdi Jasser, the Muslim narrator of the controversial film, The Third Jihad that was shown to New York police officers who received antiterrorism training.
Dr. Jasser, a former United States Navy physician from Arizona who is president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, said that the Muslim community had a responsibility "to root out radicalization."
Jasser and others, like Manda Zand Ervin, said that the danger is clearly coming from within the Muslim community, and that it's up to other Muslims to help law enforcement stop the threat. They galvanized their efforts and formed the American Islamic Forum for Democracy in 2010 after congressional hearings last summer examining the radical Islamic terror threat in the U.S.
"In no way do we want to be spied on," Dr. Jasser said. "But this is not about spying. This is about monitoring and public programs."
He added: "The more we overblow the monitoring of Muslim communities, the more that will serve to radicalize Muslims."
The 45-minute news conference concluded with Representative Peter T. King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, praising the "effective surveillance" of the Police Department in stopping potential terrorist attacks.
Several speakers condemned the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other civil rights groups that have criticized the Police Department's surveillance on Muslim communities throughout the Northeast - from mosques to shops to universities â as an unfair violation.
The small protest on a crisp, sunny morning occurred two days after about 100 Muslim activists protested the surveillance activities outside a Fordham Law School gathering in the financial district where Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, gave a speech defending his department's practices.
"As a Muslim, I have nothing to hide," said Samir Abdelkhalek, 18, a high school senior at St. Peter's Boys High School on Staten Island, who spoke on behalf of the Muslim Liberty Project, a group of young people affiliated with the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. "I have trust in the N.Y.P.D. for following people with reasonable belief."
Mohammed Hai, 58, a small-business owner from Babylon on Long Island, said he came to the news conference on Monday because he believed that the police were protecting the community, and that only a radical minority was to blame. "We are the real Muslims and stand up for the real Islam," he said.
Imam Qazi Qayyoom, of Queens, said he came Monday to support the police department because he is grateful to them. "They protect us, they allow us to pray in peace; some of us don't have those rights in the countries where we came from," he said. "We thank them."
Qanta Ahmad said, "The relentless campaign to paint the NYPD as Islamophobic is itself an offense to Islam. In fact, our faith compels American Muslims to stand with the NYPD -- both to protect the faith, and by its direct dictates. Let me be clear: By investigating Islamist sympathizers who seek to curtail the freedoms of all Americans, the NYPD is aggressively protecting the freedoms and privileges that Muslims enjoy in America."
For his part, Dr. Jasser defended The Third Jihad as essential in pointing out the radical elements within the faith.
Commissioner Kelly was interviewed in 2007 for the film. In January Mr. Kelly said, through the Police Department's chief spokesman, that the video was "objectionable" and that he should not have agreed to the interview.
Liz Robbins, "Muslim Leaders Rally in Support of Police Dept." City Room March 5, 2012
Colleen Long, "Islamic Groups Hold Rally in Support of NYPD" ABC News March 5, 2012
Qanta Ahmad, "Islam and the NYPD" Huffington Post March 5, 2012
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today