A contingent of Long Island religious leaders and the Nassau branch of the American Civil Liberties Union yesterday decried a New York City Police Department report on religious radicalism, saying the document unfairly targets the Muslim community.
Habeeb Ahmed, Islamic Center of Long Island president, called for the police department to prevent terrorism without "trampling" the civil rights of minorities through racial profiling and surveillance. He is worried that Long Island residents traveling between Nassau and New York City could be singled out by the NYPD for racial profiling.
"Not all Muslims are potential terrorists," he said at a news conference held by the Interfaith Alliance of Long Island at the State Supreme Court building in Garden City. "There are no easy solutions, but stereotyping American Muslims is not one of them."
The department's 90-page report, released last week, examines how "unremarkable" young Muslim men - who are under the age of 35, high school- or college-educated and have no criminal record - can morph into "homegrown jihadists."
"The vast majority of American Muslims reject al-Qaida's violent extremism, although younger Muslims are more accepting of violence in the defense of Islam," the report states.
Ahmed faulted the report for relying heavily on news reports and not on the research of psychologists and sociologists. He said the report does not analyze terrorist acts carried out by non-Muslim groups, such as how Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols orchestrated the Oklahoma City bombing.
"There is terrorism in other segments of the population. There is no mention of that," he said. "That is problematic. How is this 100 percent a Muslim problem?"
The report encourages officers to eschew traditional tactics of identifying criminal activity and instead focus on appearance, said Tara Keenan-Thomson, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union's Nassau Chapter.
"[The report] lays the foundation for the blanket surveillance of the entire Muslim population," she said. "That's not only wrong, it's unconstitutional."
On Wednesday, the leaders of seven of Nassau's nine mosques met with Nassau Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, who allayed concerns stemming from the report, Ahmed said.
"The commissioner assured us racial profiling has no place in Nassau County," Ahmed said
The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has also criticized the report. "The sweeping generalizations in the study reinforce negative stereotypes and unwarranted suspicions about the Muslim community. The report serves to further marginalize the community by labeling almost every American Muslim as a potential threat," according to a statement released yesterday.