NYPD Investigating Newark Muslim Community: Are We Not Americans, Too?

The author is West Ward councilman, City of Newark. – promoted by Rosi

The Star-Ledger reported last week that in mid to late 2007, the New York Police Department (NYPD) conducted extensive surveillance of Newark Muslim based businesses and mosques. The sad part of this poster child for religious profiling was that it was done with the full knowledge and cooperation of former Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy and without the knowledge of Newark Mayor Cory Booker, his boss. Even sadder is the fact that the 60-page Ccompiled report cited no evidence of terrorism or criminal behavior.

In a post-9/11 world in the tri-state area, most would understand an investigation based on probable cause or some intelligence indicating a national security threat. But  this type of arbitrary investigation, only known to an out of jurisdiction law enforcement agency, and the head of the investigated jurisdiction’s police department, apparently without federal cooperation based on some evidence of terrorism, is anti-American and chilling to all of our rights as citizens under the Constitution. We all need to be offended and embarrassed by the act and the lack of remorse by the NYPD.

There was really no reason to justify such an investigation. Any Muslim involvement in the 9/11 tragedies did not come from anyone in the Newark area Muslim community. No Newark-based Muslim was ever indicted or under suspicion in regards to the alleged foiled terrorist threat to the Prudential Building in downtown Newark after 9/11 either.

My ward is home to a number of mosques and a vibrant and important community of Muslims. Muslims own vital businesses, participate with my West Ward Collective, conduct community safety patrols, provide recreational golf and tennis programs and are leaders in ecumenical cooperation and collaborations between religions. A new mosque on South Orange Avenue, upon its completion, will also house daycare and other services for my ward residents. In fact, I know for a fact that if there was even a suspicion of terrorist activity within their ranks, the Muslim community in Newark would bring them to justice themselves as they are an integral part of the better making of our city’s quality of life in so many ways.

This abuse of power has had one good result: it has brought different Muslims in and around Newark together in ways heretofore not seen. Students at N.J.I.T. and Rutgers University rallied on their campuses and joined city merchants, religious leaders, government officials and community leaders for a major meeting last week. They developed working relationships to seek justice in this matter and a framework for future mutual economic support and partnerships that will strengthen their community. We should join them in the name of religious freedom, respect and the Constitution.  

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