Muslim Advocacy Groups Call on Bloomberg To Apologize for Harmful Surveillance
(Boston, New York City, Washington D.C.) – Muslim advocacy groups The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), MPOWER Change, Emgage, and Jetpac today sent the following letter to Mike Bloomberg asking him to apologize for the New York City Police Department’s attacks on religious liberty during his tenure as Mayor.
It is our position that any candidate who is running for public office must be responsive to the needs and concerns of the Muslim community as well as all other vulnerable communities at risk of marginalization from oppressive public policy. Under your leadership, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) established a suspicionless dragnet surveillance program that violated civil rights by spying on thousands of Muslims in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.
In 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit compared your NYPD’s illegal surveillance of Muslim communities to the persecution faced by “Jewish Americans during the Red Scare, African-Americans during the Civil Rights movement, and Japanese-Americans during World War II.”
During your tenure as mayor of New York, the NYPD deployed undercover agents into Muslim neighborhoods, paid informants to bait people into making potentially inflammatory statements, monitored sermons at over 250 mosques as well as daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes, and nightclubs. According to award-winning reporting by The Associated Press, this illegal surveillance program also monitored Muslim student groups, and on one occasion officials “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.”
The NYPD’s mass surveillance program ostracized our community, created a rift between law enforcement and Muslims, chilled free speech, and resulted in long-lasting psychological trauma. Countless children and young adults who were befriended by individuals they later realized were undercover officers today mistrust new acquaintances. Many people stopped participating in religious life out of fear they might end up on NYPD’s Muslim database for the simple act of practicing their faith.
In the past, you have defended this illegal attack on religious liberty by saying you wanted to “keep this country safe.” Your insinuation that being Muslim represents a public safety threat plays into dangerous tropes about Islam that are typical of white supremacy discourse. In perpetuating bigoted stereotypes, your actions as Mayor of New York City, and your rhetoric on this issue has put the lives of American Muslims at risk of prejudice and violence. We call on you to apologize unequivocally for the harm you have done and condemn the implementation of any similar programs.
Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of MPower Change, former Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York
Nihad Awad, Executive Director of CAIR
Wa’el Alzayat, CEO of Emgage
Mohammed Missouri, Executive Director of Jetpac