Muslim Advocates files lawsuit on behalf of American Muslims; Lawsuit details the intrusive and discriminatory nature of NYPD’s surveillance program
[Newark, New Jersey] June 6, 2012—Today, a diverse group of American Muslim plaintiffs filed suit to end the New York Police Department’s invasive and discriminatory spying program. The suit, filed by Muslim Advocates, the leading national legal advocacy group working to defend the civil liberties of American Muslims, details countless acts of invasive and discriminatory spying authorized by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Hassan, et al. v. City of New York directly challenges the unconstitutional and discriminatory surveillance program. The first legal challenge against the NYPD for intrusive practices targeting American Muslims, the lawsuit seeks an immediate end to the unlawful surveillance and the purging of files maintained by the NYPD.
“America is not safer when we spend valuable law enforcement resources on investigating the innocent multitudes rather than identifying the guilty few,” said Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ). “This lawsuit is a thoughtful, sensible step toward bringing law enforcement practices back into line with constitutional protections and the standards of good policing.”
As documented by the Associated Press, the NYPD has been conducting unlawful surveillance of innocent American Muslims simply because of their faith. American Muslims were targeted in New York City, as well as in towns, mosques, businesses, and college campuses throughout the northeast, including New Jersey. Records show that the NYPD took copious notes on the details of American Muslims’ daily lives. Examples of the NYPD spying program include:
- Records show the NYPD took pictures of an elementary school for Muslim girls for grades pre-K-6.
- Records show that the NYPD lurked outside a mosque in Paterson, New Jersey, noting: “Place Mosque under observation before and during Jumma (Friday Prayers), record license plates and capture video and photographic record of those in attendance. Pay special attention to all NY State License plates.”
- Records show that the NYPD eavesdropped at Muslim owned grocery stores, noting the ethnicity and outfits patrons and workers wore.
- Records also show that the NYPD extensively noted whenever a grocery store carried food products that were labeled “halal,” which is akin to “kosher” for Muslims.
“What makes America great is that everyone is treated equally under the law. These plaintiffs are ordinary citizens going about their lives who law enforcement spied on simply because of their faith,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates. “With New York officials refusing to look into the NYPD’s abuses, the New Jersey Attorney General saying his hands are tied, and the U.S. Department of Justice dragging its heels, this lawsuit is the victims’ last resort for justice to prevail.”
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are as diverse as the American Muslim community itself: they include a decorated U.S. Army reservist, a small business owner who is also a Vietnam veteran, students and imams.
”I joined the military to serve and protect my family and my country,” said Specialist Farhaj Hassan, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “My unit has always treated me as a member of their team, and we all support one another regardless of faith. It saddens me that despite serving my country, the NYPD leadership views me as a suspect because of the way I pray.”
“This case is critical to protecting the civil rights of American Muslims and all Americans,” said Glenn Katon, legal director of Muslim Advocates. “For each plaintiff who was brave enough to come forward, there were several who were equally violated but too scared to speak up. This silencing effect is a direct consequence of the NYPD’s illicit and unconstitutional practice of spying on innocent Americans simply because of their faith.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Muslim Advocates and its local co-counsel, Bhalla & Cho, LLC. The lawsuit will be filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and is based on violations of the U.S. Constitution. This is the first legal challenge by American Muslims who have been victims of discriminatory surveillance by the nation’s largest police department.
Click here to read the full complaint.
About Muslim Advocates:
Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and education organization dedicated to promoting equality, liberty, and justice for all, regardless of faith. Muslim Advocates provides leadership through legal advocacy, policy engagement, and civic education, and serves as a legal resource to promote the full and meaningful participation of Muslims in American public life.
About Bhalla & Cho, LLC:
Bhalla & Cho, LLC is a litigation firm practicing in the state and federal courts of New Jersey and New York. The firm specializes in a variety of areas, including civil rights law and litigation. The Principal of the Firm, Ravinder S. Bhalla, Esq., has litigated civil rights matters to jury verdict, and successfully litigated civil rights matters against the City of New York and New York City Police Department in the areas of federal civil rights enforcement.