WASHINGTON - A US Muslim civil rights groups has called on Barack Obama's administration to address the serious revelations that New York police kept secret files on businesses solely because they were owned by second- and third-generation American Muslims.
"It is indisputable that the NYPD is engaged in a widespread campaign of religious profiling targeting the American Muslim community," Nihad Awad, National Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), wrote in a letter to President Obama on Friday, March 9, according to a CAIR statement.
The letter was sent following revelations that the New York Police Department (NYPD) kept secret files on businesses solely because they were owned by Muslims.
According to the Associated Press, the NYPD kept secret files on businesses owned by second- and third-generation Americans specifically because they were Muslims
Citing newly obtained documents, the AP said that police photographed businesses and eavesdropped at lunch counters and inside grocery stores and pastry shops.
The resulting document listed no threat. And though most people of Syrian heritage living in the area were Jewish, Jews were excluded from the monitoring, the AP said.
"Similarly, police excluded the city's sizable Coptic Christian population when photographing, monitoring and eavesdropping on Egyptian businesses in 2007, according to the police files," it added.
Awad urged the president to speak out against the NYPD's blatant use of religious profiling.
"Only direct White House and Justice Department intervention will provide some measure of protection for the constitutional rights of American Muslims," he added in the letter.
CAIR recently called on the Obama administration to investigate the reported use of White House funds for the NYPD's controversial campaign of spying on Muslims without warrants or evidence of wrongdoing.
A week earlier, the AP revealed that New York police department monitored Muslim college students at schools far beyond the city limits.
The agency said that the police talked with local authorities about professors 300 miles away in Buffalo and sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded students' names and how many times they prayed.
Police detectives also trawled Muslim student websites every day though professors and students had not been accused of any wrongdoing.
The revelations angered Muslim civil rights groups, who described the police surveillance as a violation of their civil and religious rights.
The latest revelations came as Muslim leaders met with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at NYPD headquarters Friday afternoon to discuss the deteriorating relations with the Muslim community.
"The Muslim community feels under siege," Mohammed Nurhussein of the United African Congress told NY1.
"And that issue has to be addressed."
Coming in the wake of the latest AP revelations about putting the whole Muslim community under surveillance, the meeting was rejected by many Muslims who had serious misgivings about the department's tactics.
Rejecting this meeting, several groups gathered outside police headquarters Friday to denounce the NYPD and to blast the police commissioner.
"They are organizing sham meetings with sham leaders of the community," said Fahd Ahmed of the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, meanwhile, kept up his defense of the police department on his weekly radio show on Friday.
"We're doing the right thing," he said on 710 WOR Friday.
"We will continue to do the right thing. We take every precaution possible to not do anything that ever violates the law.
On Thursday, US Attorney General Eric Holder said he was "disturbed" by what he had read about the NYPD's spying program and he noted that the issue was under review by the Justice Department.
Since 9/11, Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
The accusations against the NYPD were not the first.
Last September, the CIA launched an investigation into cooperation with NYPD to spy on American Muslims.
In 2011, the New York University's Center for Human Rights and Global Justice issued a report criticizing the tactic of US law enforcement agencies in sending paid informants into mosques to instigate and trap Muslims into terror plots.
The report, themed Targeted and Entrapped: Manufacturing the Homegrown Threat', cited three high-profile domestic terrorism prosecutions which raised question marks about the role of the FBI and the NYPD in creating the perception of homegrown terrorism.