December 17, 2013
By Matt Sledge
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly received an award this month from a source that may seem unlikely: a group of Muslim community leaders.
“The Muslim community appears to be softening its stance toward Ray Kelly as he walks out the door,” one tabloid crowed, suggesting that a Muslim council of 10 members hand-picked by the NYPD represented Muslim New Yorkers in all their diversity. But the meaning of the award granted Dec. 9 by the Muslim Advisory Council, set up by the NYPD in 2012, is very much up for debate.
New York’s hundreds of thousands of Muslims come from backgrounds rich and poor, from lands far away to uptown Harlem. The Muslim Advisory Council award — derided by the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islam Relations as a “cheap public relations stunt” — highlights the diverse reactions to revelations of police surveillance of Muslims. Some Muslims have retreated into silent distrust. Others have expressed outrage. A third group sees a different path — trying to engage.
“The idea of the council is great,” said Dr. Ahmed Jaber, a retired obstetrician and gynecologist who used to sit on the Muslim Advisory Council. “We were discussing it years before Kelly. We wanted that relationship with the higher authority.”
At almost the same time it was giving Kelly his award, the advisory council submitted a Dec. 1 memo highlighting controversies that have marred the relations of Kelly’s police department with Muslims: a “radicalization” study panned by civil liberties groups, an Islamophobic screed featuring an interview with Kelly that was screened as a training video for NYPD cadets, and “terrorism enterprise investigations” that have listened in on imams as they deliver sermons.
Those issues, the council wrote in its memo, have “strained the relationship between the Muslim Community and the NYPD” and “served to erode some of the goodwill the NYPD has fostered by other means.”
But the memo also called the NYPD’s efforts to build relationships with communities a “model of cooperation,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner John McCarthy noted in a statement to HuffPost.