Following the events of September 11th, the NYPD embarked on a domestic surveillance program that monitored Muslim citizens. Masajid were monitored as early as 2005 and in August 2011, the Associated Press documented police surveillance of Muslims living in New York. The NYPD infiltrated Muslim institutions such as masajid and Muslim Student Associations, causing suspicion and distrust towards Muslim citizens, according to the ACLU.
The lawsuit challenges that the surveillance program violated the right to equal protection under the law and the right for all citizens to freely practice their religion without fear or discrimination.
Three religious community leaders, two masajid and a charitable organization are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They claim they’ve been affected by the surveillance program. The lawsuit also alleges the NYPD monitored the conversations of Muslim citizens and religious leaders.
Plaintiffs Hamid Hassan Raza and Mohamm ad Elshinawy say they have been forced to censor and record their sermons, fearing words may be taken out of context by the police department. The fear established in the Muslim community as a result of the surveillance program caused a decline in attendance at masajid, according to the plaintiffs.
Masjid Al-Ansar and Masjid Al-Taqwa leaders say their masajid have been restricted from serving their purpose as a religious sanctuary as a result of the surveillance. Muslims Giving Back is a charitable organization that engages in events that assist the poor, but hasn’t been able to raise sufficient funds because of the community’s fear of surveillance, says ACLU.
In late 2012, a police informant told ACLU that he had infiltrated Muslims Giving Back. Another police representative admitted the surveillance did not provide any leads, nor did it result in any terrorism investigations.
The ACLU asks the NYPD to end their surveillance of Muslim residents. It also asks the court to annul any records created by the NYPD on its clients and for a monitor to be appointed to ensure the NYPD ends its practice of what the ACLU calls unconstitutional religious profiling. The ACLU hopes that the court recognizes that surveillance based solely on religious identity is unconstitutional and that the practice of religious profiling ends. A trial date has not yet been set.