(WASHINGTON, D.C., 5/11/14) -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the "potential illegality" of an ongoing campaign by the New York Police Department (NYPD) to coerce Muslims immigrants who are arrested for infractions as minor as an argument over a parking ticket to become informants who would spy on their faith community.
The New York Times reports that a squad of detectives, known as the Citywide Debriefing Team, combs city jails for Muslims and questions them about which mosque they attend, whether they celebrate Muslim holidays or have gone on pilgrimage to Mecca and about their prayer habits. Detainees would then be asked to spy on Muslim businesses and mosques.
Unlike longstanding informant programs in which those recruited are asked to provide information about crimes or criminals they know about, the NYPD team sought to recruit Muslims regardless of what they knew and apparently based solely on their faith and ethnicity. Despite the claim that the recruitment requests were not coercive, the Times reports that "as Muslim immigrants in a post-9/11 world, they felt they had little choice but to cooperate."
In a statement, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said:
"The Department of Justice must investigate the potential illegality of the coercive recruitment of Muslims to spy on their own faith community using the pressure brought to bear by minor charges and of the unconstitutional questioning of detainees about their religious practices.
"The program as a whole unconstitutionally focuses on all New York Muslims through religion-related, coercive questioning and recruiting of those in custody and through spying on those who choose to pray where and as they wish without having to worry about whether their fellow worshipers are government spies.
"It is chilling to note that any Muslim who comes in contact with the NYPD will either be spied on or will be pressured to become a spy for the department.
"Seeking information about crimes and criminals is appropriate. Coercing people who have no knowledge of criminal activity to spy on law-abiding members of their faith is not."
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR-NY Director of Operations Sadyia Khalique, 212-870-2002, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, email@example.com