But a look into the catacombs of what has become NYPD's collaborated spying on Muslim communities has recently come into focus in the media with allegations that police and secret police infiltrated colleges like Yale and University of Pennsylvania as well as Muslim student groups in colleges across the Northeast. Essentially, they researched the activities of MSAs and other Muslim groups. After they learned they were being watched, some report federal agents noted how many times some of the students would pray and chronicled new tensions some students have about practicing openly in public.
One of the students who have become vocal about becoming a victim of such spying is Jawad Rasul. He said in a recent interview that when a group of his students came together for a whitewater rafting trip, they met a fellow student named Jebron at the train station. While he accompanied them on many of their get-togethers in Jackson Heights and Brooklyn, he began to lie about his life, especially by saying he was from different cities which heightened suspicion in some of the members of the group. Months later Jawad got a call from the Associated Press linking him to an investigation by the NYPD. As he learned that his actions were being monitored, he also learned that Jebron, who accompanied Jawad and his friends sometimes paintballing or grabbing a bite to eat, was actually an informant.
Understandably, Jawad was shocked. He felt disheartened that although he had an affinity towards his country, to the point where he tried to buy American products to support the economy, he was the subject of a counter-terror investigation. Yet this is only one example of tactics espoused by the secret police which target lone wolf actors and homegrown terrorists. Other students are not so magnanimous, like Diala Shamas, a former Yale Law student who is now a legal fellow at a City University of New York School of Law program called CLEAR, or Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility. She said in a recent AlterNet article, “We’re talking about widespread and routine surveillance absent the pursuit of specific criminal leads. The policy has taken the NYPD to grocery stores, neighborhoods and also to student organizations—to all parts of communities’ daily lives.”Mongi Dhaouadi, Executive Director of CAIR’s Connecticut Chapter, is also highlighting reports that suggest spying at universities across Connecticut, that have very robust Muslim student populations, and especially those that are of South Asian origin. Dhaouadi is seeking legal counsel because, like many Yale University officials, he believes that the laws of Connecticut were broken by NYPD.
Specific reports pinpoint groups at Yale University where investigations have linked back to the New York Police Department. Yale University President Richard Levin pleaded that, "police surveillance based on religion, nationality, or peacefully expressed political opinions is antithetical to the values of Yale, the academic community, and the United States. Also I want to make sure our community knows that the Yale Police Department has not participated in any monitoring by the NYPD and was entirely unaware of NYPD activities until the recent news reports.” Yet police officials, such as Ray Kelly, continue to assert that the illegal spying is pursuant of the law. The incompetent methods employed however are laughable, as some of the agents would mark down how many times the students prayed, while not even being aware of the fact that there are five prayers that need completion for those who choose to practice. The police also remarked on gatherings where the topics would be largely about Islam. Even online websites and internet blogs with Islam affiliated content were being monitored by some police officials, to the extent to which the Internet exchanges and postings of students from as many as 16 colleges from the Northeast were carefully observed.
Mayor Bloomberg has stated that he finds it worrisome that by electing a new mayor, the city will abandon practices, what actually are illegal, he thinks are keeping the city safe. New York City Comptroller, John C. Liu, who is against the ethnic and or religious profiling and is the most visible opponent of the spying operation, is ironically himself under federal investigation for inconsistent campaign funds. A 2006 document released by AP with the title, "Weekly MSA report" is the basic form of analysis sent by spies to the police commissioner. The efforts have been expanding rapidly and spreading outside of their jurisdiction and with free license. Police spokesperson, Paul Browne, said that the police was mainly concerned with the many students who they thought had been radicalized through MSAs and stated, “We were focused on radicalization and/or recruitment, specifically by groups like Al Muhajiroun, Islamic Thinkers Society, Revolution Muslim and others.”
I, personally, along with many other Muslim students, am willing to wager that I have never heard the names of any of these organizations. One student gained scrutiny after only forwarding a promotional flyer for “Reviving the Islamic Spirit” conference in Toronto. The police defense for spying on him was that the speakers at the conference, including Zaid Shakir, Tariq Ramadan, Siraj Wahhaj, and Hamza Yusuf, have an anti-Islamic rhetoric.
However, no evidence exists that they are part of any organization that threatens to harm any aspect of American life whatsoever. Of course the dissenters’ main point would have to be here, “so what if they have rhetoric?” It’s only that, and you can't persecute someone simply for their beliefs. Or so we thought.