FBI accused of spying on mosques in New York
Posted by musliminsuffer on April 23, 2009
In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
=== News Update ===
FBI accused of spying on mosques in New York
Sharmila Devi, Foreign Correspondent
Last Updated: April 21. 2009 8:58PM UAE / April 21. 2009 4:58PM GMT
NEW YORK // Arab-American groups have urged the Federal Bureau of Investigation to either confirm or deny allegations made by a US congressman that a number of mosques in the New York region are under law enforcement surveillance.
Peter King, a Republican representative for New York, caused consternation when he told the Newsday newspaper that mosques had been monitored “for four or five years” and that “very few Muslims come forward to co-operate with police”.
“King’s repeated use of Islamophobic rhetoric is of deep concern to Muslims in his district and to the entire American Muslim community,” said Faiza Ali, the community affairs director for the Council on American Islamic Relations (Cair) in New York. “We are hoping the FBI and other elected officials will repudiate his remarks.”
Mr King’s allegations came as relations between US Muslim groups and the FBI have deteriorated across the country, threatening to undermine a co-operative spirit that developed after September 11.
In California, the Muslim community was disturbed by recent revelations that the FBI planted a spy in a mosque and by reports of Muslims being pressured to become informants.
A coalition of Muslim groups urged the Obama administration to investigate recent FBI operations, including what they called the “infiltration of mosques” and use of “agents provocateurs to trap unsuspecting Muslim youth”. The American Civil Liberties Union has also started legal proceedings, demanding the FBI turn over its records on mosque surveillance in Orange County in southern California.
A federal judge in California said Monday he would review more than 100 pages of records of the FBI inquiries to determine whether the information should be made public or is protected by law. And last week, a Muslim group in Michigan asked the US attorney general to investigate complaints the FBI has been asking the faithful there to spy on fellow worshippers.
In New York, Mr King said he would not tone down his comments about the Muslim community even though he was considering a run for the US Senate, a move that usually pushes candidates to the political centre to win over a majority in the liberal-leaning state.
Discussing a recent homeland security report about right-wing extremism, Mr King told the MSNBC cable channel on Friday that it had “never put out a report talking about [looking] out for mosques. Look out for Islamic terrorists in our country. Look out for the fact that very few Muslims come forward to co-operate with the police.”
He later said: “I stand by everything I said. I consider any attack by Cair to be a badge of honour.”
He has made similarly provocative remarks in the past. In 2007, he said there were “too many mosques in this country”.
Cair-New York pointed out that any surveillance of mosques was contrary to repeated FBI assurances there was no such routine activity. “The FBI does not investigate mosques, we investigate people,” said John Miller, an FBI spokesman, last month.
The Muslim community had been “tremendously supportive and worked very closely with [the FBI] in a number of instances around the country”, Robert Mueller, the FBI director, told the Senate judiciary committee last month.
Ms Ali said Cair was still in contact with the FBI, particularly in transmitting any concerns about civil liberties issues. Last year, the FBI began a disengagement campaign with Cair and suspended contacts pending the resolution of unspecified “issues”.
In 2007, the justice department designated 300 US Muslim groups and individuals as “unindicted co-conspirators” in charges against the Holy Land Foundation in Dallas, Texas.
The second trial of the charity and five of its former leaders ended in guilty verdicts for funnelling millions of dollars to Hamas in the largest terrorism financing case in the United States since September 11.
Cair-New York was hoping a reconstituted dialogue committee made up of the FBI and local Muslim groups would again meet regularly. The committee fell apart a couple of years ago after key personnel were reassigned to other tasks, Ms Ali said.
She also pointed to a policy paper prepared by a coalition of Muslim groups in response to the New York Police Department, which in 2007 acknowledged surveillance of Muslim communities to identify risks from extremists.
The coalition suggested ways in which counterterrorism efforts could be successful, but did not infringe on civil liberties. These included regular dialogue, educating Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities about positive collaboration with law enforcement agencies and about measures against hate crimes, and urging the NYPD to consult Muslim scholars.
Up to one million Muslims live in the New York City area, which has about 200 mosques. Ms Ali worried that Muslims might avoid mosque attendance because of surveillance concerns.
“I think given what’s been said by people like King, it will have a chilling effect on many individuals who go to mosque like we’ve seen in California,” she said.
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