The New York Police Department monitored Muslim college students far more broadly than previously known, at schools far beyond the city limits, including the Ivy League colleges of Yale and the University of Pennsylvania, The Associated Press has learned.
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.
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.
In one report, an undercover officer describes accompanying 18 Muslim students from the City College of New York on a whitewater rafting trip in upstate New York on April 21, 2008. The officer noted the names of attendees who were officers of the Muslim Student Association.
“In addition to the regularly scheduled events (Rafting), the group prayed at least four times a day, and much of the conversation was spent discussing Islam and was religious in nature,” the report says.
The universities at which students were clandestinely monitored included Yale, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Syracuse, New York University, Clarkson University, Rutgers, and the State University of New York campuses in Buffalo, Albany, Stony Brook and Potsdam, among others. Noted Muslim American leaders including Imam Siraj, Imam Zaid Shakir, Shk Hamza Yusuf & Tariq Ramadan are all listed as targets for surveillance as well. This is all sourced directly from internal NYPD documents – Here’s an example of a “Weekly MSA report” given directly to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.
This, on the heels of revelations that the NYPD planned to monitor Shi’a mosques across the Northeast, and screened the virulently Islamophobic film The Third Jihad to thousands of police officers. The NYPD is even investigating using drones for surveillance.
This is utterly absurd and evidence that the NYPD is transforming into the worst nightmare of a police state organization rather than a civil service to protect and serve.
The approach that the NYPD has pursued here is not just a grotesque violation of civil rights, but it is counterproductive, given that muslim Americans are actually the best allies against terror. As Omid Safi puts it,
Perhaps more than anything else, it is this: The FBI, NYPD, Homeland Security have asked for and need the assistance of the American Muslim population in combating the real threat of extremism that does exist among a marginal percentage of American Muslims. To identify that threat, it is necessary to have clear and open lines of communication and a relationship based on mutual trust and concern for the wellbeing of all Americans, including Muslim Americans, while preserving the constitutional rights of all Americans, including Muslim Americans.
How is the Muslim American community supposed to trust the police and FBI when we know that they are illegally profiling, spying, reading emails, and counting the prayers of Muslims as evidence of extremism? In other words, the NYPD’s actions are actually making us far less likely to have a meaningful cooperation, which puts all of us in a more vulnerable position.
Exactly. The data doesn’t lie: the muslim American community has been an asset in the war against terror, and radical US muslims pose little threat. The NYPD seems determined to treat us like an enemy, and the real enemy is certainly delighted.
As far as a response goes, the national Muslim Student Association is coordinating with MSAs across the East Coast to talk about the situation and coordinate with local chapters. The various University administrations will also be engaged and hopefully Governor Cuomo’s office will be persuaded to begin an investigation.