Good News: NJ Banks Remove Posters Banning Hijab

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 10/4/2013) — Following intervention by the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ), Century Savings Bank officials say they have removed posters announcing a policy banning “hats, hoods, headgear, and sunglasses” for security purposes.

The posters had an image of a woman wearing hijab (head scarf), along with images of a woman in sunglasses, a man in a hard-hat, and a man wearing a cap.

Yesterday, CAIR-NJ asked the bank to review that “inappropriate and discriminatory” policy that would impact Muslim women wearing scarves, observant Sikh and Jewish men who wear turbans and yarmulkes respectively, and would logically be applied to Orthodox Jewish women who often wear wigs for religious reasons or Catholic nuns who wear habits.

“We thank Century Savings Bank for taking prompt action to avoid the appearance that they discriminate against those who wear certain attire for religious reasons,” said CAIR New Jersey Civil Rights Director Khurrum Ali

Ali said CAIR-NJ will work with bank officials to craft a policy that ensures both security and religious freedom.

NJ’s attorney general visits mosque as part of outreach after NYPD surveillance flap

NEWARK, N.J. — New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa quietly visited a Newark mosque Friday that had been listed in a secret report by the New York Police Department, and he reassured worshippers that New Jersey officials do not believe certain groups of citizens have lesser rights than others.

Chiesa attended prayer services at Masjid Ibrahim, a modest, single-story mosque set up inside a ramshackle former commercial space in Newark. The mosque was among several in the report by the NYPD, which conducted surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey and elsewhere.

“It is not tolerable here in New Jersey for us to have people treated differently in this state — period,” Chiesa said.

The attorney general’s visit was part of an ongoing effort by his office to repair relations between Muslims and New Jersey law enforcement after The Associated Press uncovered the NYPD spying. The NYPD has said its actions were legal and it has the right to travel to other cities in carrying out its duties.

Chiesa has said that New York police now meet regularly with New Jersey law enforcement to discuss counterterrorism intelligence and operations. He has also issued a directive requiring New Jersey law enforcement agencies to notify the New Jersey State Police Counter-Terrorism Bureau and the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness if they hear of outside departments working in New Jersey. Assemblyman Charles Mainor also has introduced legislation that would give such guidelines the weight of law.

NJ attorney general tells Muslim leaders that NYPD unit has stopped surveillance in NJ

NEWARK, N.J. — The state attorney general assured a group of Muslim leaders Wednesday that a New York City police unit that conducted surveillance of Muslim businesses, religious leaders and student groups was no longer operating in New Jersey.

Jeffrey Chiesa made the remarks during the first meeting of an outreach committee he formed to repair relations between law enforcement and Muslims in the wake of the revelations about the New York Police Department’s surveillance tactics.

Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the attorney general, confirmed that state Department of Homeland Security and Preparedness Director Edward Dickson said during the closed door meeting that the NYPD’s Demographics Unit was no longer working in New Jersey. Loriquet added that Chiesa felt the meeting was productive and that the attorney general “wanted to make sure that all the people of New Jersey’s rights are protected and respected.”

Chiesa told the group Wednesday that he stood by his findings — announced in May following a three-month review — that the NYPD had not violated any New Jersey laws in conducting the surveillance.

Confused 911 caller blows lid on NYPD spying operation in NJ: ‘There’s pictures of terrorists’

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — It’s an audiotape the New York Police Department hoped you would never hear.
A building superintendent at an apartment complex just off the Rutgers University campus called the New Brunswick Police 911 line in June 2009. He said his staff had been conducting a routine inspection and came across something suspicious.
The caller, Salil Sheth, had stumbled upon one of the NYPD’s biggest secrets: a safe house, a place where undercover officers working well outside the department’s jurisdiction could lie low and coordinate surveillance. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the NYPD, with training and guidance from the CIA, has monitored the activities of Muslims in New York and far beyond. Detectives infiltrated mosques, eavesdropped in cafes and kept tabs on Muslim student groups, including at Rutgers.
The call sent New Brunswick police and the FBI rushing to the apartment complex. Officers and agents were surprised at what they found. None had been told that the NYPD was in town.
At the NYPD, the bungled operation was an embarrassment. It made the department look amateurish and forced it to ask the FBI to return the department’s materials.
The emails highlight the sometimes convoluted arguments the NYPD has used to justify its out-of-state activities, which have been criticized by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and some members of Congress. The NYPD has infiltrated and photographed Muslim businesses and mosques in New Jersey, monitored the Internet postings of Muslim college students across the Northeast and traveled as far away as New Orleans to infiltrate and build files on liberal advocacy groups.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has defended the police department’s right to go anywhere in the country in search of terrorists without telling local police. And New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa has said he’s seen no evidence that the NYPD’s efforts violated his state’s laws.
Muslim groups, however, have sued to shut down the NYPD programs. Civil rights lawyers have asked a federal judge to decide whether the spying violates federal rules that were set up to prevent a repeat of NYPD abuses of the 1950s, when police Red Squads spied on student groups and activists in search of communists.

West Point cadets visit NJ city to witness the cultural diversity they will encounter overseas

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — The men and women in crisp U.S. military uniforms walked in close formation through the bustling, traffic-choked streets, passing women in full Muslim hijab, sari-clad Indian mothers pushing strollers, worshippers heading to an Egyptian Coptic church, and small shops with signs in Arabic, Hindi, Korean and a dozen other languages.

It wasn’t a tour of duty overseas, but a field trip to Jersey City, just 60 miles down the Hudson River from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

The city of 250,000 is one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse places in America, and the West Point cadets are visiting as part of a class at the academy on peacekeeping and reconstruction called “Winning the Peace.” The class ends in a three-day crash course designed to make the future officers — and, ultimately, the soldiers under their command — more sensitive to cultural differences.

The program is in its eighth year but has taken on new urgency as the Army deals with the fallout from a string of embarrassing episodes in Afghanistan, including reports of U.S. soldiers posing with the bloody remains of suicide bombers, urinating on Afghan corpses and burning Muslim holy books.

NJ mosque uses NYPD surveillance to emphasize in an ad campaign that it has nothing to hide

NEWARK, N.J. — The leader of a New Jersey mosque that was listed in a secret NYPD surveillance report is using the incident to try and recruit new members and promote a more positive view of Muslims.

Imam Mustafa El-Amin of Masjid Ibrahim in Newark ran an advertisement Thursday in The Star-Ledger newspaper urging people to read the Quran, denouncing terrorism and emphasizing that his mosque has an “open door” policy.

Under a bold-letter headline that reads: “NYPD Surveillance of Muslim Community,” the ad says there’s no need for the NYPD or any other agency to conduct secret surveillance of the mosque, because: “We have nothing to hide. Our doors are open.”

El-Amin says he came up with the idea after reflecting on a phrase in the Quran — “With every difficulty, there is relief” — and realizing that finding a positive, teachable moment out of a negative experience is a concept deeply rooted in Islam.

“We’ve heard a lot about the negative effects, but once you get this level of exposure, one of the best things about it is, if you’re positive, than the positive will win out,” he said.

Attendance at El-Amin’s largely African-American mosque, housed in a converted storefront along a gritty commercial strip in Newark, has not waned in light of the NYPD revelations, he said. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to run the ad for a variety of reasons: to attract new people to the mosque — potential Muslim converts, law enforcement officials or people of any faith wanting to learn more about Islam — to emphasize the mosque’s long-running stance against terrorism, and to set non-Muslims at ease, especially those who were once friendly to the mosque but are now wary of visiting Muslim businesses or mosques that were listed in the NYPD report.

NY Rep. King blasts NJ governor over counterterrorism effort; Gov. to King: ‘Keep quiet’

NEW YORK — New York Congressman Peter King says New Jersey’s governor should show more gratitude toward the New York City Police Department for its counterterrorism work.

King told Fox Business Network on Wednesday that Gov. Chris Christie is letting emotions get in the way of preventing attacks.

Christie has criticized the NYPD for doing surveillance of Muslim communities in New Jersey without notifying local police or the FBI.

“I think, in this case, Governor Christie was letting his personal feelings get in the way of protecting us against terrorism,” King told Fox host Don Imus. “He should be welcoming New York City and anyone else who wants to come in or out of his state, work with them and cooperate with them because terrorists go back and forth across city and state lines all the time.”

NJ FBI official says NYPD monitoring of Muslims caused ‘risks’ in terror investigations

NEWARK, N.J. — In a rare public criticism of the New York Police Department, the top FBI official in New Jersey said Wednesday that the department’s surveillance of Muslims in the state has hindered investigations and created “additional risks” in counterterrorism.

The monitoring of Muslims in Newark and across the state has damaged the public’s trust in New Jersey law enforcement and jeopardized some of the relationships agents had sought to build in the community since 9/11, said Michael Ward, agent in charge of the FBI’s Newark division.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne responded Wednesday by pointing to several cases worked in conjunction with New Jersey law enforcement, such as the June arrests of Mohamed Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte, who admitted to planning to travel to Somalia to get training with a group with ties to al-Qaida.

NY congressman accuses NJ governor of taking ‘cheap shots’ at NYPD over Muslim monitoring as Chris Christie criticizes the NYPD secrecy surrounding surveillance of Newark Muslims

NEW YORK — An interstate feud escalated Friday when a New York congressman berated the New Jersey governor for “trying to score cheap political points” instead of saving lives when he complained that the New York Police Department’s monitoring of Muslims across the state line was arrogant and secretive.

Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Gov. Chris Christie crossed a line when he mocked Police Commissioner Ray Kelly as “all-knowing, all-seeing” and said the NYPD’s intelligence operation in Newark may have been “born out of arrogance.”

New Jersey officials raised concerns about NYPD operations in their state two weeks ago, after a series of stories by The Associated Press detailed how police officers had monitored Muslims around the metropolitan area and prepared a report cataloging the location of Muslim-owned businesses and mosques in Newark.

Christie said he was concerned with “this kind of affectation that the NYPD seems to have that they are the masters of the universe.”

On Friday, King accused Christie of “overreacting,” and said that if he had legitimate concerns, he should have picked up the phone and called Kelly.

NJ Muslim leaders meet with officials to discuss response to NYPD surveillance program

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey’s attorney general told Muslim leaders Saturday that he was still looking into the extent of New York Police Department surveillance operations in the state, yet stopped short of promising a formal investigation during a meeting that both sides characterized as productive.

Leaders from different New Jersey Muslim organizations met with Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa and state and federal law enforcement officials for nearly three hours in Trenton to discuss concerns over the NYPD’s activities in the state.

A spokesman for the attorney general, Paul Loriquet, called Saturday’s meeting the start of an ongoing dialogue with New Jersey’s Muslim American community.

“We will continue to reach out to the community and keep the communication channels open as we move forward in our fact-finding,” he said.

New Jersey’s Muslim leaders have been demanding at least a state investigation — if not a federal one — into the NYPD’s activities following a series of stories by The Associated Press that detailed the monitoring or recommended surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey, the mapping of mosques in Newark and the monitoring of Muslim student groups, including at Rutgers University and at other schools in the Northeast.