Some activists opposed to the New York Police Department’s reported program of monitoring Muslim businesses, schools and houses of worship have a message for imams and community leaders.
“Announce to your congregations or membership that informants are not tolerated in your communities,” and make a “mosque or organization’s leadership available to address members’ concerns about informants and surveillance.”
The report, “Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying and its Impact on American Muslims,” was released this morning outside NYPD headquarters by the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition, the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility project, and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
One of the report’s co-authors, Nermeen Arastu of AALDEF, told me that having imams announce that “informants are not tolerated” in the mosque helps “define that space as sacred” and “get the sensitivity that they deserve.”
Arastu defended the recommendations, ssaying that the report “is, in a sense, empowering the congregation.”
I told the report’s other co-author, Diala Shamas of CLEAR, that the “informants are not tolerated” message sounded like the “stop snitching” rhetoric that is a recurring theme in gangster rap and graffiti in some high-crime areas.
She said the two messages, and the circumstances that created those responses, are totally different.
“The way that informants are being used in these communities is to just relay what people are saying, what imams are saying, what political and religious beliefs folks have,” Shamas said.
She also said some informants are “pressured” by the police into becoming informants, either for financial reward or to get out of legal trouble. The Associated Press reportedÂ that one teenage informant did the work for both of those reasons, and later said he was coached on how to “bait” his targets.
The groups also called on New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to audit the NYPD’s Intelligence Division to see if it “used monies improperly or unlawfully for domestic and foreign operations,” and called on New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to “[t]horoughly investigate whether the NYPD Intelligence Division violated state law, and make findings public.”
A spokesman for DiNapoli’s office declined to comment.
In February, Schneiderman resisted a similar call to investigate the NYPD, with a spokesman citing “significant legal and investigative obstacles that impede our ability to launch a review of this matter at this time.”
The report piggybacks on the year-long Pulitzer Prize winning series about the program produced by the Associated Press, which the NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly repeatedly accused of mischaracterizing his department’s operations.
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