New York Muslim Leaders Plan Boycott of Interfaith Breakfast With Mayor
A group of Muslim leaders plans to boycott Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s annual interfaith breakfast on Friday to protest what it calls the unfair surveillance of Muslims by the New York Police Department.
In a letter sent to Mr. Bloomberg on Wednesday, 14 Muslim leaders said they would not attend the breakfast because of what they described as “very disturbing revelations” about the city’s treatment of Muslim New Yorkers. They were referring to a series of articles released by The Associated Press beginning in August that detailed the use of undercover officers and informants to gather and maintain information about political activity among Muslims in circumstances in which there was no indication that crimes had occurred.
The mayor and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, strongly denied the accusations in the articles, saying the department did not target Muslims but simply followed leads.
The letter writers, who included clergy members, a professor at Fordham University School of Law and the president of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, seemed to find this response frustrating.
“We are deeply disturbed that to date we have only heard your words of strong support for these troubling policies and violations of our rights,” they wrote to the mayor. “We are equally disturbed by Commissioner Kelly’s denials of what we know to be true as verified by the leaked documents.”
The writers requested a meeting with the mayor “at the earliest possible date” to discuss the issue of surveillance of Muslim communities.
New York Police Department Security Camera outside Mosque
The Police Department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said in an e-mail that “the N.Y.P.D. lawfully follows leads in terrorist-related investigations and does not engage in the kind of wholesale spying on communities that was falsely alleged.”
Mr. Browne noted that the Central Intelligence Agency’s inspector general had recently completed a report about its role in the Police Department’s activities. The report concluded that no laws were broken and that there was no evidence the C.I.A. had been engaged in domestic spying.
A spokesman for the mayor, Stu Loeser, said about two dozen Muslim leaders had said they would attend the breakfast, about the same as previous years. “The mayor’s office and the N.Y.P.D. maintain their strong ties with the city’s Muslim communities,” he wrote in an e-mail. “In fact, the police commissioner spoke at the Masjid Salaam Mosque in the Bronx this afternoon just after announcing the great year-end crime statistics with the mayor at City Hall.”
One of the signatories to the letter, the director of the Arab American Association of New York, Linda Sarsour, said in an interview that whether the mayor noticed her absence from the breakfast or not, she hoped the gesture would keep the issue of police surveillance of Muslims alive. If not, she said, Muslims “will be further marginalized in the years to come.”
An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the group that one of the writers of the letter to Mr. Bloomberg belongs to as the Council on Arab-American Relations. The name of the group is the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: December 29, 2011
A previous version of this article misstated the name of a group whose New York leader is boycotting the breakfast as the Council on Arab-American Relations. (He is Zead Ramadan, president of the New York chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations.)
Source: New York Times
Photo Credit: Huffington Post
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