NYPD’s Kelly not apologizing for surveillance of Muslims in NJ, calls criticism ‘knee-jerk’

NEW YORK — New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has no plans to apologize for an intelligence program that has been keeping tabs on Muslims.

He said Monday that the NYPD won’t let up, despite criticism by some lawmakers in New Jersey who are upset that the department monitored communities in the Garden State. He says Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Robert Menendez and Newark Mayor Cory Booker were wrong to question the NYPD.

They were responding to the disclosure that NYPD officers devoted several months in 2007 to surveillance of Muslim communities in Newark. The result was a 60-page guide on Muslims in New Jersey’s largest city, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Gallup Survey: Christianity Remains Dominant Religion in the United States

Majority still says religion is very important in their lives
by Frank Newport

PRINCETON, NJ — This Christmas season, 78% of American adults identify with some form of Christian religion. Less than 2% are Jewish, less than 1% are Muslim, and 15% do not have a religious identity. This means that 95% of all Americans who have a religious identity are Christians.

Bottom Line:

The United States remains a predominantly Christian nation, with 78% of all adults identifying with a Christian faith, and more than 9 in 10 of those who have a religious identity identifying as Christians. Fifteen percent of Americans do not have a formal religious identity, a continuation of a dramatic change from 50 and 60 years ago, when almost all Americans identified with a particular religion. The precise implications of the increase in the “no religious identity” segment are not clear, given that more than 9 in 10 Americans say they believe in God, and that 8 in 10 say religion is a very or fairly important part of their lives.

5 Muslim immigrants appeal NJ terrorism convictions in deadly Fort Dix plot

PHILADELPHIA — Wiretaps obtained under a Patriot Act provision aimed at gathering foreign intelligence wrongly helped convict Muslim immigrants in a domestic criminal case, defense lawyers argued Monday in U.S. appeals court in Philadelphia.

The lawyers represent five young men convicted of plotting a deadly strike at a New Jersey military base. Prosecutors call evidence in the three-month trial overwhelming and the two wiretaps in question incidental to the conviction.

Prosecutors charged that the Philadelphia-area residents, inspired by al-Qaida, had taken training trips to the Pocono Mountains and scouted out Fort Dix, an Army base in New Jersey used primarily to train reservists for duty in Iraq, and other sites.

Islamic group sues NJ town over its refusal to allow a mosque in a former banquet hall

NEWARK, N.J. — An Islamic group has sued a suburban town it says engaged in religious discrimination by abruptly changing zoning regulations to prevent the opening of a mosque.
Members of the Al Falah Center and local residents filed suit Tuesday in federal court in Trenton against Bridgewater Township’s mayor, council and planning officials. “What should have been an uncomplicated approval of the application then foundered in a storm of anti-Muslim sentiment and hysteria,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also says the sudden zoning changes thwarted plans the group had been working on, with the township’s knowledge, to convert a closed banquet hall in a mostly residential area into a mosque and community center. It accuses town officials of bowing to pressure from protesters and an anti-mosque Internet campaign.

Town officials voted to change the rules for houses of worship, prohibiting them in residential zones unless they fronted on state highways, court papers say. The ruling affected only the mosque, the suit says, as 17 existing religious facilities in Bridgewater — several in residential areas — were allowed to remain. The suit seeks to block enforcement of the ordinance and allow the group’s application to be processed.

Koran Burner Derek Fenton Booted From His Job at NJ Transit

New Jersey Transit fired an employee, Derek Fenton, for burning a Koran in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11 in his off-duty hours. Derek Fenton’s 11-year career at the agency came to an abrupt halt Monday after photographs of him ripping pages from the Muslim holy book and setting them ablaze appeared in newspapers. Fenton was apparently inspired by Pastor Terry Jones (the Florida clergyman who threatened to burn the Koran that day who later changed his mind) did indeed burn the book during a protest on the ninth anniversary of Sept 11 outside of Park 51, where the controversial mosque slated to build near Ground Zero.

The incidence has sparked a debate on free speech and if public workers are limited to express such rights.

French Public Accepting of Religious and Ethnic Minorities: But most are uncomfortable with outward signs of piousness

PRINCETON, NJ — Hopes that France’s recent legislative elections would result in greater ethnic representation to reflect the country’s diversity were dashed when only one of the 555 National Assembly seats for metropolitan France went to a minority candidate. But at the Hôtel Matignon, the government’s Paris headquarters, the situation looked a bit brighter for advocates of diversity. Three individuals visibly identifiable as minorities out of 19 portfolios now hold minister-level posts. And President Nicolas Sarkozy’s highest profile appointment went to Rachida Dati, a female lawyer of North African ancestry, who heads the Justice Ministry.

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