Brooklyn Law School’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Brooklyn Muslim Law Student Association co-hosted an event in response to a recent Associated Press (AP) investigation that found that the NYPD had gathered domestic intelligence in Muslim communities in ways that would violate civil liberties. The discussion, which drew a large student crowd, featured: Udi Ofer, Advocacy Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and author of a report about the NYPD’s anti-mosque action, and Cyrus McGoldrick, Civil Rights Manager of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization that filed a complaint with the Department of Justice about the NYPD surveillance of mosques in New York.
“Unwarranted surveillance and infiltration of houses of worship treads on religious freedom and strikes at the very core of the values that define America,” said Elizabeth Komar ’13, the BLS ACLU Co-Chair and organizer of the event. “We believe it’s vital that students understand the threats to liberty within their community. We are constantly asked what rights we are willing to exchange for safety. We hoped that students would come away from this talk with a more educated answer, prepared to speak out in defense of the community,” she added.
McGoldrick provided background information about the AP’s initial account, which reported an alleged “domestic spy agency” within the NYPD that collects information on all mosques and Muslim Americans within 100 miles of New York City, regardless of age, nationality, political activity, or citizenship status. Despite the incriminating AP report, McGoldrick reported that the NYPD announced it has no intention of ending the program. He took issue with Mayor Bloomberg’s comment that “people are willing to sacrifice civil liberties for national security,” and emphasized the importance of educating New Yorkers about their religious and civil rights.
Ofer detailed an earlier report published by the NYPD in 2007 that only came to light after the AP article. This publication listed mosques, student associations, and bookstores as examples of terrorist incubators. It also described a “four-step linear process” in which any practicing Muslim could become a terrorist, including lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking and drinking or becoming involved in community issues. Ofer strongly criticized the NYPD report for its lack of proof, and echoed the reaction of many other civil rights activists, as well as audience members. “The NYPD has not received the criticism that it deserves,” he remarked.