CAIRO - Angry with recent revelations about police spying on Muslim communities, Muslim leaders in New York plan to boycott an annual inter-faith breakfast hosted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday, December 30.
We are deeply disturbed that to date we have only heard your words of strong support for these troubling policies and violations of our rights, the leaders said in a letter to the mayor cited by The New York Times on Thursday, December 29.
The letter, signed by 14 Muslim leaders, said the revelations about police surveillance on Muslim communities were very disturbing.
Mayor Bloomberg, the extent of these civil rights violations is astonishing, yet instead of calling for accountability and the rule of law, you have thus far defended the NYPD's misconduct.
The Associated Press has revealed that New York Police Department has used undercover agents to spy on Muslim communities.
The report showed that the New York Police sent out undercover officers into ethnic communities to track daily life and monitor mosques as well as Muslim student organizations.
It also revealed that NYPD intelligence, titled the most aggressive domestic intelligence agency in the US, had established so-called Demographics Unit using plainclothes police officers to monitor ethnic groups in the metropolitan region.
However, the New York Mayor defended the practice, saying it does not take religion into account in its policing.
Police commissioner Raymond W. Kelly also denied targeting Muslims in its policing, saying it only followed leads.
But American Muslim leaders rapped the police over Muslim surveillance.
We are equally disturbed by Commissioner Kelly's denials of what we know to be true as verified by the leaked documents, the letter said.
New York is home to some 800,000 Muslims, about 10 percent of the city's population. There are about 100 mosques throughout New York's five boroughs.
The United States is home to an estimated Muslim minority of six to eight million.
Muslim leaders warned that the police behavior risks undermine trust between the sizable minority and law enforcement officers.
We believe such police measures threaten the rights of all Americans, and deepen mistrust between our communities and law enforcement.
The signatories asked the mayor for a meeting at the earliest possible date to discuss the police surveillance on Muslims.
We believe it is unequivocally wrong and fundamentally misguided to invest law enforcement resources in religious or racial profiling, rather than investigating suspicious activity, the letter said.
We seek your clear, unambiguous, public support for the rights and privacy of all New Yorkers, including Muslims; and a condemnation of all policies that profile and target communities and community groups solely based on their religion or the color of their skin.
A spokesman for the mayor, however, downplayed the absence of some Muslim leaders from the event.
The mayor's office and the N.Y.P.D. maintain their strong ties with the city's Muslim communities, Stu Loeser wrote in an e-mail.
In fact, the police commissioner spoke at the Masjid Salaam Mosque in the Bronx this afternoon just after announcing the great year-end crime statistics with the mayor at City Hall.
Linda Sarsour, the director of the Arab American Association of New York, who signed the letter, said whether the mayor noticed her absence or not, she hoped the gesture would keep the issue of police surveillance of Muslims alive.If not, she said, Muslims will be further marginalized in the years to come.