More than two dozen religious groups called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday to root out police practices that infringe on religious liberties like the covert surveillance of Muslims in the region.
Police training and practices must “support the constitutionally protected right to worship without scrutiny for every religious community,” group leaders said in a letter that was sent to the mayor’s office today.
Imam Al-Hajj Talib Adbur-Raschid, president of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, speaking during an afternoon press conference announcing the letter at the interdenominational Riverside Church in Manhattan, accused Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly of “acting more like rulers than public servants.”
“It’s no longer Muslims speaking out in a vacuum,” said Abdur-Raschid, who was flanked at the podium by men and women representative a variety of religious groups.
Among the national religious groups represented were the United Methodist Church, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Arab American Institute, the United Church of Christ, Sojourners, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Islamic Society of North America, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and Rabbis for Human Rights—North America. A number of representatives for New York-based synagogues, churches and faith-based activists groups also attended.
Bloomberg and Kelly have maintained the surveillance was legal and necessary in a city under constant threat of another terrorist attack.
Tuesday’s announcement occurred coincidentally on the day Quinnipiac University released a poll in which 58 percent of those surveyed said the NYPD dealt with Muslims fairly. The poll found that 29 percent of respondents thought police were unfair, up from 24 percent in February.
Police monitored mosques and Muslims around the metropolitan area and kept tabs on Muslim student groups at universities. In New Jersey, the surveillance operation focused on Muslims in Newark, the Omar Mosque in Paterson and a student organization at Rutgers University.
The tactics have raised questions about whether the NYPD is ignoring the civil rights of Muslims and illegally engaging in religious and ethnic profiling.
The U.S. Justice Department and the New Jersey Attorney General are considering whether to investigate the practice.