WASHINGTON - US Muslim civil rights groups have called Yale and Rutgers universities to take concrete steps to protect the constitutional rights of Muslim students following revelations that the New York City Police Department spied on them without warrants, legal jurisdiction or probable cause.
"University officials may be the last line of defense for Muslim students whose rights were apparently violated by the clearly unconstitutional -- and possibly illegal -- tactics used by the NYPD," Ibrahim Hooper, National Communications Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a press release late on Sunday, February 19.
"The NYPD continues to act as if it is somehow above the law that governs all other individuals and institutions."
Hooper said representatives of CAIR chapters in New Jersey and Connecticut will contact the appropriate officials at universities in those states beginning Monday morning.
CAIR's request for protection of the students' rights followed new revelations by The Associated Press (AP) that the NYPD "monitored Muslim college students far more broadly than previously known, at schools far beyond the city limits."
"Police talked with local authorities about professors 300 miles away in Buffalo and even sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded students' names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed, the AP said.
Detectives trawled Muslim student websites every day and, although professors and students had not been accused of any wrongdoing, their names were recorded in reports prepared for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly."
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne acknowledged that the websites of several school Muslim organizations were legally monitored in 2006 and 2007.
Joining hands with CAIR, several Muslim organizations called on Rutgers University to take action against the New York Police Department, including Rutgers' Muslim Alumni Association.
The fact that we were specifically targeted is upsetting, Salim Patel, a founding board member of the school's Muslim Alumni Association, told The Record.
Patel, a 2002 Rutgers graduate and a city of Passaic Board of Education member, said universities should be safe.
They weren't just spying on students, they were spying on faculty as well, he said.
Targeting law-abiding US Muslim citizens, American Muslim associations called the NY police surveillance a violation of civil and religious rights.
The involvement of universities only strengthens our case that a full investigation of the spying activities of the NYPD must be taken, not only by the New York attorney general, but also by the New Jersey attorney general and at the federal level, the United States aAttorney, Aref Assaf, president of the Paterson-based Arab American Forum, told The Record.
His organization, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and 14 other New Jersey-based groups sent a letter to Governor Christie last week asking him to investigate NYPD's surveillance of Muslim communities, including a mosque in Englewood.
Taking the first action, Rutgers' Muslim Alumni Association started an online petition asking Rutgers administrators to outline their opposition to on-campus surveillance, to detail their knowledge or involvement and to demand that the NYPD let people know they were investigated and why.
The petition also wants NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly to detail the extent of the surveillance at Rutgers and the New York City Council to oversee police activities targeting law-abiding Muslims.
Yet, the effect of the NYPD reports was overwhelming to Muslim students who felt alienated in their home country.
Hussain, of Hackensack, said Muslim American students are trying to integrate into society, but that law enforcement is causing us to be the other' for no reason.
Ahmed Al-Shehab, president of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the surveillance of Muslim student associations warrantless spying.
The Muslim community feels under attack by NYPD with no oversight, Al-Shehab, of Paramus, said in a statement.
It seems as if no one cares as long as the constitutional rights of only the American Muslims are being abused.
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 seven to eight million.