Muslim Officer Sues New York Police Dept. Over No-Beard Policy

The department’s no-beard policy, as it is known, is at the center of a federal class-action lawsuit filed on Wednesday on behalf of a Muslim police officer who says he was suspended during the fasting month of Ramadan for refusing to shave his one-inch beard. The lawsuit, brought by Masood Syed, 32, aims to force the Police Department to change a policy that his lawyers say infringes on the rights of more than 100 officers seeking to exercise their religious freedoms without fear of discrimination or retaliation.
Officer Syed, a 10-year veteran assigned to the office that handles disciplinary proceedings against officers, was suspended without pay on Tuesday. At an emergency hearing on Wednesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, Judge P. Kevin Castel ordered the department to continue paying Officer Syed until his next court date on July 8, when the court will decide whether he can return to work.
Officer Syed’s complaint cites a 2013 ruling in Federal District Court in favor of a Hasidic Jewish police officer who was fired during his probationary period for refusing to shave his beard. The officer, Fishel Litzman, was reinstated in 2014 and remains on the job.
The complaint also describes another 2013 case of Mohsin Aftab, a Muslim police officer who was suspended and ultimately agreed to leave the department after 10 years of service rather than shave his beard. Mr. Aftab, according to the complaint, has not been able to work in law enforcement since his departure, and his family has had to accept food stamps.

Bloomberg: “Muslim Groups Seek To Revive New York Police Surveillance Suit”

Sophia Pearson for Bloomberg: “Muslim groups seeking to revive a lawsuit over a New York City Police Department surveillance program of mosques and businesses faced tough questions from appeals judges about terrorism and skepticism from an attorney for the city about the program’s very existence.

Several Muslims sued New York in June 2012 in Newark, New Jersey, federal court claiming police singled them out for their religious beliefs. The plaintiffs included a U.S. soldier and a teacher at a Muslim school for girls. Both said their career prospects would be hindered as a result of the spying.”

St. Paul police now allow employees to wear hijab

March 1, 2014

 

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The St. Paul Police Department is now allowing employees to wear a police-issued hijab headscarf, according to an announcement Saturday.

St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith said he knows of only one other department in Washington, D.C., that allows the hijab in the United States, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/1gJtpFc).

Cities in Canada and Great Britain allow Muslim officers to wear police-issued hijabs while in uniform.

The St. Paul announcement comes in tandem with the recent hiring of their first Somali woman, Kadra Mohamed. She serves as a Community Liaison Officer.

Although the Twin Cities has the nation’s largest Somali-American population, Garaad Sahal was St. Paul’s first and remains the only sworn Somali-American police officer, joining in late 2012.

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations praised Saturday’s announcement in a news release.
Muslim women who wear the hijab believe it’s their religious obligation and asking them to remove it is akin to asking them to remove a shirt or other piece of clothing, Saroya said in the news release.

CAIR: http://cair.com/press-center/press-releases/12397-cair-mn-welcomes-new-st-paul-police-hijab-policy.html

‘Fox And Friends’ Warns Of YMCA Swim Class For Muslim Girls (VIDEO)

December 2, 2013

 

Fox News is warning viewers about a YMCA swim class for Muslim girls, suggesting that it’s a bad sign of the “minority becoming the majority.”

A YMCA in St. Paul, Minnesota recently teamed up with the St. Paul Police Department to offer a swim class for Somali-American girls. The class respects the girls’ religious beliefs, and Minneapolis Star Tribune recently reported on the need for the program and its success.

Fox News saw it differently. “The minority becoming the majority at one community pool,” newsreader Heather Nauert said on Monday’s “Fox and Friends.” “Sharia law is now changing everything.”

“This means during the one hour class, the pool is being shut down,” she said. “The men’s locker room is being locked and female life guards are being brought in. Similar classes are now starting at towns across the Midwest. We’ll keep watching this story for you.”

 

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/02/fox-news-ymca-muslim-girls-sharia-law_n_4373268.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

At helm of NYPD, Bratton will take on role of healer-in-chief of a worried Muslim community

December 6, 2013

 

When William J. Bratton takes over as commissioner of the New York Police Department early next year, he will inherit the country’s most powerful local counterterrorism force, but one that has alienated the city’s large Muslim community.

“We need to heal some of the wounds, reopen the communications and the partnership,” Bill de Blasio (D), the mayor-elect, said Thursday while introducing Bratton, 66, as the next police commissioner at a news conference.

Bratton will have his hands full in this role of healer-in-chief as he reassures New York’s Muslim community and other minorities that they will not be racially profiled.

The next commissioner said there are people in the city who “feel that . . . there has been unnecessary intrusion into their lives.”

In 2003 under Kelly, the NYPD launched an aggressive campaign to infiltrate certain ethnic communities in the city’s five boroughs and map where Muslims live, work, eat and pray.

Muslims in New York say they have reason to be hopeful that Bratton will change course while still protecting the country’s top terrorism target. As chief of the Los Angeles police, Bratton came to reject the idea of mapping.

“We police this city with the consent and cooperation of the community,” Bratton said in 2007, announcing his decision to abandon a mapping program. “We did not have that here, and we will not go forward with this program.”

Bratton said he didn’t want to “spread fear.”

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/at-helm-of-nypd-bratton-will-take-on-role-of-healer-in-chief-as-muslim-community-looks-on/2013/12/06/0facc264-5e84-11e3-95c2-13623eb2b0e1_story.html

Spying on Muslims

The New York City Police Department’s indefensible program of spying on law-abiding Muslims in their neighborhoods and houses of worship has turned out to be even more aggressive than earlier reports had shown.

According to a recent Associated Press report by Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, the surveillance operation designated at least a dozen mosques as terrorist organizations. The designation was used to justify open-ended “terrorism enterprise investigations,” circumventing court-imposed limitations on police investigations of constitutionally protected activities. The report is based largely on leaked police documents and interviews; though most of the documents date back a few years, recent court filings suggest such activities are continuing.

 

In a move reminiscent of discredited police efforts in the 1960s and 1970s to spy on black activists and antiwar protesters, attempts were made to plant informants on the boards of mosques and a prominent Arab-American group in Brooklyn that helps new immigrants.

 

CAIR Welcomes Ruling Against NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Program

(New York, N.Y., 8/12/13) — The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) today welcomed a federal court ruling that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program has violated the constitutional rights of tens of thousands of the city’s residents.

The judge’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit brought against the city by the Center for Constitutional Rights challenging the constitutionality of the police practice. NYPD documents reveal that between 2004 and 2012 police had detained, questioned, and searched some 4.43 million people, and that 80 percent of those stopped were minorities.

Manhattan Federal District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the stop-and-frisk program violates the Constitution’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, which protect against unreasonable searches and promise equal protection under the law. She also ordered that an independent monitor be appointed to oversee immediate changes in some police procedures.

The long-awaited decision declaring the New York Police Department’s use of stop-and-frisk tactics unconstitutional was mostly expected; even the staunchest defenders of the practice anticipated that Judge Shira A. Scheindlin would find the stops violated the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

 

But it was her other finding — that the police had violated the 14th Amendment by engaging in racial profiling in carrying out those stops — that drew blood.

 

In a statement responding to today’s ruling, CAIR-New York said:

 

“We welcome the court’s decision against the NYPD’s racially biased and unconstitutional stop-and-frisk program. Judge Scheindlin and the Center for Constitutional Rights helped us mark a milestone today in balancing the power between the people and the state and moving the civil rights movement one important step forward.

 

“We hope that today’s rebuke of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program will end any discussion of the potential nomination of New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly as the next secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Kelly has called this unconstitutional program ‘essential’ and said ‘you can’t police without doing it.’

 

“We repeat our call for increased oversight and investigations of the NYPD’s continued surveillance of American Muslim communities, houses of worship, and student clubs across the mid-Atlantic region. This unconstitutional spying program has interfered with lawful religious practice, cost taxpayers too much, and strained relations between the NYPD and one of the many diverse communities it is meant to serve.

 

“We still have a long way to go, and the Community Safety Act and other similar legislation is also key to ensuring the rights of New Yorkers of all colors.

 

“Additionally, we urge other courts to follow Judge Scheindlin’s lead in striking down law enforcement practices that rely on the profiling of minority communities.”

NYC Mayoral Candidate, Lhota, Courts Muslim Votes

Prayer mats, pointing in the direction of Mecca, lined a pedestrian plaza and an entire block on 73rd Street in Jackson Heights, Queens, early on Thursday to mark the end of a month of fasting for Muslims and the beginning of a three-day feast that is traditionally spent in the company of close family and friends. Colored flag streamers hung along the sides of the streets, recycled boxes were circulated through the crowd to collect donations and hundreds of men took their shoes off and stood side by side to pray.

 

It was the usual scene — except for an unusual visitor this year.

 

Joseph J. Lhota, one of the Republican candidates for mayor, appeared before the sizable gathering, mostly South Asian and Muslim people, to introduce himself. While many of the Democratic candidates have made themselves known to the Muslim community in Jackson Heights and throughout other parts of the city, the Republican candidates have remained largely invisible.

 

But Mr. Lhota, addressing a congregation that had gathered in Diversity Plaza, said, “I really appreciate everything that the Muslim community brings to New York.

“I want to be your mayor,” he added. “I want to be the mayor of all New Yorkers.”

Several Democratic candidates for mayor have courted New York’s growing Muslim population by making specific promises. John C. Liu, currently the city comptroller, said he believed that surveillance of Muslim institutions by the Police Department was unconstitutional. Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, promised to add two Muslim holidays to the school calendar. Anthony D. Weiner, a former member of Congress, pointed out that he was married to a Muslim woman.

 

By contrast, Mr. Lhota, a former chief of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority who previously served as a deputy mayor in the administration of Rudolph W. Giuliani, kept his message short and broad.

 

“It is very important,” he said, “that we continue to make sure that New York City is the city of opportunity and a place where people from all over the world want to come to be able to fulfill their American dream.”

 

Muslims criticize Bloomberg veto of NYPD watchdog

Muslim-American civil rights groups are criticizing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for vetoing a bill on Tuesday (July 23) that would have created an independent inspector general to oversee the New York City Police Department.
The New York City Council passed the bill June 27 as a check against controversial NYPD policies that critics say violate the civil rights of Muslim and other minority New Yorkers. Reports that the NYPD spied on mosques, Muslim businesses, organizations and students began surfacing in 2011.
Critics say the surveillance program has caused many Muslims to stop going to Islamic institutions or speaking out in public, worried it could land them in legal troubles.

NY Times Op Ed: More Overreach by the N.Y.P.D.

The revelation in 2011 that the New York City Police Department was spying on law-abiding Muslims rightly attracted scrutiny from the Justice Department, which announced last year that it intended to review the program. The disclosure also raised troubling questions about whether the city was violating a federal court order that bars it from retaining information gleaned from investigations of political activity unless there are reasonable indications of potential wrongdoing. The purpose of that order was to discourage unjustified surveillance and prevent police from peering into people’s private affairs and building dossiers on them without legitimate cause.

Now comes a new federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Muslim citizens and organizations saying they have been subjected to illegal surveillance that has disrupted Muslim houses of worship, made it difficult for congregants and their spiritual leaders to worship freely, and inhibited Muslims from openly associating with lawful Muslim charities and civic groups and exercising First Amendment rights.

One striking case in the complaint involves Masjid At-Taqwa, a mosque in Brooklyn, where the Police Department is alleged to have installed a surveillance camera, clearly marked with the department’s insignia and pointed at the mosque door. This seems curious because the mosque’s longtime leader, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, was said in the complaint to be a clergy liaison for the N.Y.P.D. Community Affairs Bureau and a member of the Majlis Ash-Shura, also known as the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York.