Another day, another damning revelation of the role that religion played in the NYPD's extensive surveillance of the Muslim community. The AP reports that in addition to monitoring college students at schools in the New York City area, the department monitored Muslim students at Yale and University of Pennsylvania, and even sent an undercover officer on a whitewater rafting trip where he took detailed notes on the students and their activities.
In defense of their monitoring of Muslim student associations (or "MSAs" in police parlance) NYPD spokesman Paul Brown gave the AP a list of 12 people who were arrested or convicted worldwide who were once members of MSAs. "As a result, the NYPD deemed it prudent to get a better handle on what was occurring at MSAs," Browne told the outlet via email, and noted that the surveillance was conducted from 2006-2007.
But the whitewater rafting trip occurred in April of 2008, and was sponsored by a Muslim student association. 18 students went on the trip to upstate New York, and the undercover noted, "In addition to the regularly scheduled events (Rafting), the group prayed at least four times a day, and much of the conversation was spent discussing Islam and was religious in nature." As the AP dutifully points out: "Praying five times a day is one of the core traditions of Islam." Hmm, wasn't that in a training video or something that the NYPD used?
"I see a violation of civil rights here," the chaplain of the Muslim Student Association at Syracuse says. "Nobody wants to be on the list of the FBI or the NYPD or whatever. Muslim students want to have their own lives, their own privacy and enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities that everybody else has."
NYPD Commissioner and Mayor Bloomberg have insisted that the NYPD doesn't racially profile or spy on anyone who doesn't deserve it: "We don't do it ethnically, we do it geographically," Kelly told the City Council at a hearing in October. Yet none of the reports prepared by the NYPD mention any of the students committing a crime. "It forces me to look around wherever I am now," one of the students on the rafting trip says.
Below is a copy of a secret report on MSA's conducted by the NYPD and obtained by the AP.