CAIRO - A group of US Muslims plans to file lawsuit Wednesday, June 6, against New York police over spying on the sizable Muslim minority and their worship places and businesses.
"What makes America great is that everyone is treated equally under the law, Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a renowned advocacy group, said in a statement cited by New Jersey website.
The lawsuit calls for an immediate end to spying operations on US Muslims and their mosques and businesses.
Eight Muslim plaintiffs are included in the suit, including imams, students, a business owner and a US Army reservist.
The plaintiffs say their constitutional rights were violated by the New York Police Department (NYPD) when they were targeted for surveillance based on their religion and without evidence of wrongdoing.
These plaintiffs are ordinary citizens going about their lives who law enforcement spied on simply because of their faith, Khera said.
Last year, the Associated Press revealed that the NYPD sent out undercover officers into ethnic communities to track their daily life and monitor mosques as well as Muslim student organizations.
It also revealed that the NYPD intelligence had established so-called Demographics Unit using plainclothes police officers to monitor ethnic groups in the metropolitan region.
The AP also found that the NYPD kept secret files on businesses owned by second- and third-generation Americans specifically because they were Muslims.
According to the agency, police photographed businesses and eavesdropped at lunch counters and inside grocery stores and pastry shops.
Using this information, the police department built databases showing where Muslims live, pray, buy groceries, and use internet cafes.
The revelations angered US Muslims, who described the police surveillance as a violation of their civil and religious rights.
But officials of New York City and New York State have refused to investigate the police over these allegations.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also publicly defended the NYPD surveillance of Muslims, describing the operation as "legal," "appropriate," and "constitutional."
Muslim leaders say the lawsuit is their last resort to protect their constitutional rights.
"With New York officials refusing to look into the NYPD's abuses, the New Jersey Attorney General saying his hands are tied, and the US Department of Justice dragging its heels, this lawsuit is the victims' last resort for justice to prevail," Khera said.
Last month, a review by the New Jersey Attorney General's office described the police spying operations on Muslims as legal.
The review said that New York investigators did nothing wrong on gathering information on Muslims.
Ared Assaf, president of the Arab American League, says the lawsuit will show the chilling effect of police surveillance on the Muslim community in New Jersey.
"We are seeing quantifiable evidence of membership decline in mosque attendance, he said.
We're seeing businesses not wanting to promote themselves as Muslim or Halal stores.
The United States is home to an estimated Muslim minority of between seven to eight million.Since 9/11, US Muslims have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.