FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 24, 2013
NEW YORK – A coalition of 125 religious, racial justice, civil rights, and community-based organizations sent a letter to the Justice Department today urging it to open a civil rights investigation into the New York City Police Department for its program of spying on Muslims without suspicion of wrongdoing.
Groups representing diverse faith traditions and beliefs who signed the letter include Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim organizations, such as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), National Council of Jewish Women, the Hindu American Foundation, the Sikh Coalition, and national, regional, and New York-based Muslim groups. The civil rights and community-based groups include the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), and the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC).
“Putting a class of Americans under surveillance based on their religion is a clear violation of our Constitution’s guarantees of equality and religious freedom,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project. “The NYPD’s surveillance program has stigmatized Muslims as suspect and had deeply negative effects on their free speech, association, and religious practice.”
As documented extensively by the NYPD’s own records, the department has built a program dedicated to suspicionless blanket surveillance of Muslims in the greater New York City area. Officers and informants have routinely monitored restaurants, bookstores, and mosques, and created records of innocent conversations. An NYPD official admitted that the mapping activities have not generated a single lead or resulted in even one terrorism investigation.
“The NYPD’s unconstitutional mapping and surveillance of American Muslims is religious, racial, and ethnic discrimination at its worst,” said Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and senior vice president for policy and advocacy. “It is beyond offensive and wrong for the NYPD or any law enforcement agency to stereotypically single out American Muslims as being more prone to violence based solely on their religious membership or affiliation. Just as the Civil Rights Division has investigated and sanctioned police departments for biased profiling based on race and ethnicity, it should investigate the NYPD for profiling based on religion.”
The department has also sent paid infiltrators into mosques, student associations, and beyond to take photos, write down license plate numbers, and keep notes on people because they are Muslim.
“One of the foundations of this nation is freedom of religion for everyone, yet this fundamental freedom is threatened if even one group’s ability to freely practice its faith is attacked.” said Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance and pastor for preaching and worship at Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, Louisiana. “In America, law enforcement should never turn anyone’s First Amendment-protected religious beliefs into cause for suspicion, and yet evidence shows that’s exactly what the NYPD is doing to Muslim New Yorkers. The fact that people of faith might have to fear going to their houses of worship or freely practicing their religion is about as un-American as un-American gets.”
A copy of the letter can be found at:
Interfaith Alliance is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.