Archive for Mayor Bloomberg

NYPD Monitored Groups Based on Religion, Documents Show

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2012 by loonwatch

(via. Islamophobia-Watch)

NYPD monitored groups based on religion, documents show

(AP)

The New York Police Department collected information on businesses owned by second- and third-generation Americans specifically because they were Muslims, according to newly obtained secret documents.

They show in the clearest terms yet that police were monitoring people based on religion, despite claims from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the contrary.

The NYPD has faced intense criticism from Muslims, lawmakers – and even the FBI – for widespread spying operations that put entire neighborhoods under surveillance. Police put the names of innocent people in secret files and monitored the mosques, student groups and businesses that make up the Muslim landscape of the northeastern U.S.

Bloomberg has defended his department’s efforts, saying they have kept the city safe, were completely legal and were not based on religion. “We don’t stop to think about the religion,” Bloomberg said at a news conference in August after The Associated Press began revealing the spying. “We stop to think about the threats and focus our efforts there.”

In late 2007, however, plainclothes officers in the department’s secretive Demographics Unit were assigned to investigate the region’s Syrian population. Police photographed businesses and eavesdropped at lunch counters and inside grocery stores and pastry shops. The resulting document listed no threat. And though most people of Syrian heritage living in the area were Jewish, Jews were excluded from the monitoring. “This report will focus on the smaller Muslim community,” the report said.

Similarly, police excluded the city’s sizable Coptic Christian population when photographing, monitoring and eavesdropping on Egyptian businesses in 2007, according to the police files. “This report does not represent the Coptic Egyptian community and is merely an insight into the Muslim Egyptian community of New York City,” the NYPD wrote.

Many of those under surveillance were American-born citizens whose families have been here for the better part of a century. “The majority of Syrians encountered by members of the Demographics Unit are second- or even third-generation Syrian Americans,” the Syrian report said. “It is unusual to encounter a first generation or new arrival Syrian in New York City.”

Associated Press, 9 March 2012

Read the documents herehere and here.

See also “Yep, the NYPD was definitely profiling Muslims”, New York Magazine, 9 March 2012

Justin Elliot: Did the NYPD’s Spying on Muslims Violate the Law?

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2012 by loonwatch

Important questions and answers:

Did the NYPD’s Spying on Muslims Violate the Law?

by Justin Elliot (Pro Publica)

Last August, the Associated Press launched aseries detailing how the New York Police Department has extensively investigated Muslims in New York and other states, preparing reports on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses, apparently without any suspicion of crimes have been committed.

The propriety and legality of the NYPD’s activities is being disputed. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who claimed last year that the NYPD does not focus on religion and only follows threats or leads, is now arguing that, as he said last week, “Everything the NYPD has done is legal, it is appropriate, it is constitutional.” Others disagree. In fact, Bloomberg himself signed a law in 2004 that prohibits profiling by law enforcement personnel based on religion.

This week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a congressional committee that the Justice Department is reviewing whether to investigate potential civil rights violations by the NYPD.

To get a better understanding of the rules governing the NYPD — and whether the department has followed them in its surveillance of Muslims — we spoke to Faiza Patel,co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center at NYU School of Law.

The NYPD did not respond to our request for comment about allegations it has violated the law.

ProPublica: So, Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have said everything that the NYPD did was legal and constitutional. Others have disagreed. Newark Mayor Cory Booker, for example, said wholesale surveillance of a community without suspicion of a crime “clearly crosses a line.” What restrictions is the NYPD operating under?

Patel: They are operating under at least three sets of rules. The first and most basic set of rules is the consent decree from the Handschu case — the so-called Handschu guidelines. This was a 1970s-era political surveillance case that was settled through a consent decree. The NYPD had been conducting surveillance of a number of political groups in the 1960s and ’70s. The initial consent decree regulated the NYPD’s collection of intelligence about political activity. It first said the NYPD can only collect intelligence about political activities if it follows certain rules. For example, the NYPD had to get clearance from something called the Handschu authority, which was a three-member board that consisted of two high-level police officials and one civilian appointed by the mayor.

Then, post-9/11, the NYPD went to court and asked a judge to review the consent decree because they wanted greater freedom in their counterterrorism operations. What they wound up doing was adopting guidelines based on the FBI’s guidelines from 2003, issued by Attorney General John Ashcroft. These were different in several important ways. The first was that there was no pre-clearance at all … no requirement that the NYPD get approval from the Handschu authority before they undertook any intel gathering about political activity. The second was that the guidelines explicitly say the NYPD can attend any public event or gathering on the same basis as another member of the public. So, if I can go to a church, the NYPD can go to a church. But it goes on to say that the NYPD can’t retain the information it gathers from such public events unless it is connected to suspected criminal or terrorist activity.

ProPublica: So, if you look at, say, the NYPD’s guide to Newark’s Muslim community obtained and published by AP — which maps out mosques and Muslim-owned businesses without mentioning any suspected crimes — aren’t the police retaining exactly this kind of information?

Patel: There are a couple of documents that suggest they may have violated Handschu — for example, the [2006 NYPD report] on the Danish cartoon controversy, which is a collection of statements in mosques and other places that have been taken by undercover officers or confidential informants.

ProPublica: What other rules does the NYPD operate under?

Patel: The second set is that the NYPD has a profiling order in place, and New York City also has a racial profiling law. They are slightly different. The NYPD order [issued in 2002] does not include religion among the categories that they define as profiling. But the New York City law does. It prohibits police officers from relying on race, ethnicity, religion or national origin as a determinative factor in initiating law enforcement action. Normally, you have quite a difficult time in racial profiling cases showing they’ve used one of these factors as the determinative factor. In this case, if you look at the documents, it seems quite clear that the NYPD had its eyes quite firmly on the Muslim community, so it’s possible it is also in violation of this law.

The third set of rules is, of course, the U.S. and New York state constitutions. Within the [U.S.] Constitution, you’re looking at at least two broad categories of provisions — potential First Amendment claims for free speech, freedom of association and free exercise of religion. The other piece of it would be potential equal protection claims.

ProPublica: Another AP story this week reported that federal grant money and equipment were used in the NYPD surveillance and investigation of the Muslim community. Does that muddy the legal questions about whether the police were following federal rules?

Patel: The federal program that was giving them money is the HIDTA program — High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. It’s geared toward providing funds to combat drug trafficking. HIDTA itself does allow for counterterrorism spending to be an incidental purpose. It requires the HIDTA executive board to basically make sure that funds were being used for the purposes that they were supposed to be used for. So, I think there’s a real issue about accountability and oversight of the use of HIDTA funds here.

ProPublica: So, if the NYPD did potentially violate the Handschu guidelines and city law you mentioned, what are the penalties?

Patel: Well, the Handschu lawyers already went to court last year and told the judge that the documents that had been released by the AP suggested that there had been violations of the Handschu decree. They asked for discovery so they could check the files of the NYPD to see whether they had violated the prohibition on keeping dossiers. I believe that that discovery will likely be starting soon. So, there’s clearly a remedy through the Handschu mechanism. Because it’s a consent decree, it’s an ongoing thing. The judge has supervisory jurisdiction. There are also issues under the racial profiling law and under the First Amendment.

We’ve also turned to the question of oversight. The FBI, for all its faults, does have a fair amount of oversight — an inspector general internally and congressional oversight. We think a similar thing would be a great idea for the NYPD.

Haroon Moghul: Stop the Reckless Spying on Muslims

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2012 by loonwatch

Stop the Reckless Spying on Muslims

by Haroon Moghul (Foreign Policy)

The United States spends millions flying diplomats around the planet to bolster America’s relationship with the Muslim world. Meanwhile, its reservoir of trust among the Muslim community at home is rapidly being depleted — courtesy of the New York Police Department (NYPD).

On Feb. 20, Yale University President Richard Levin expressed his anger at the NYPD’s extensive surveillance of American Muslim students, which has included monitoring students’ emails and websites,events and speakers, and activities — not only at Yale, but at universities across the northeast. In one frequently cited incident, an undercover police officer accompanied students from the City College of New York on a white-water rafting trip, noting their topics of conversation and the frequency of their prayers. This type of surveillance, Levin wrote, “is antithetical to the values of Yale, the academic community, and the United States.”

New York City’s top officials, however, have shown no inclination to rein in the NYPD’s obsessive monitoring of American Muslims. Mayor Michael Bloomberg made light of the Yale president’s concerns, calling them “cute” and “ridiculous.” He then attacked Levin: “Yale’s freedoms to do research, to teach, to give people a place to say what they want to say is defended by the law enforcement throughout this country.”

Far from supporting academic freedom, the NYPD has done tremendous damage to campus life. Far from “keeping the country safe,” as Bloomberg stated, the NYPD is making us less safe.

I’ve worked with Muslim students across the United States — offering media training, leading workshops debunking common and pernicious myths about Muslim history, and giving lectures on Islamic law, Muslim identity, and the value of civic engagement. These students are bright, sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and remarkably civic-minded. Targeting them is not merely offensive and contrary to American values and principles, but clueless. Don’t take my word for it, either. The students on whom the NYPD is spying attend some of the highest-caliber universities in the world: Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, and New York University, among others.

American Muslims are, in fact, the most accomplished and educated segment of the global population of 1.5 billion Muslims. Our successes are American successes, and they undeniable evidence of America’s pluralism and promise. Restrictions on our rights fuel extremist arguments that Muslimswill never be accepted as equals in the West. For those like me who have spent years trying to shrink the trust deficit, this is a tremendous setback.

Put yourself in the shoes of an American Muslim student: One day, you learn that NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly cooperated in the production of a hateful pseudo-documentary on Islam — the film alleges American Muslim organizations are conspiring to take over the United States — even though his office initially denied his role in the project and hid the fact that the film was screened to some 1,500 officers. Would you feel that law enforcement still has your best interests in mind?

The NYPD’s surveillance efforts seem to be shockingly extensive and targeted specifically at American Muslims. As discovered by the Associated Press, which won a prestigious Polk Award for its investigation, the NYPD under Bloomberg has engaged in a massive effort to compile information on Muslims, including spying on New York City mosques. In the process, the NYPD has exceeded the limits set even by the FBI and has frequently pursued its investigations for no discernible purpose and based on no evident allegations. The only relevant consideration for the NYPD seems to have been that all Muslims are worth spying on.

On Feb. 22, we learned that the NYPD’s activities extend to Newark, New Jersey. The Associated Press’s Matt Apuzzo reported that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was not told about what he termed the NYPD’s “disturbing” spying activities across state lines. Christie called for the state’s attorney general to investigate the NYPD’s actions, concluding on a note of frustration: “NYPD has developed a reputation of asking forgiveness rather than permission.” (Read the rest)

Bloomberg Fail: NY Mayor Defends Racial Profiling of and Spying on American Muslims

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2012 by loonwatch

It has now been unearthed that the NYPD has been using racial profiling to illegally target the American Muslim community, spying on Muslim students without reason or warrant.  Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York, was questioned yesterday about this unethical practice; he defended it using the typical, disgusting, and morally repugnant justifications that have become so commonplace in our national discourse thanks to the War on of Terror. (Here is an article documenting Mayor Bloomberg’s response.)

Bloomberg ominously warned journalists: ”You are not going to survive. You will not be able to be a journalist and write what you want to say if the people who want to take away your freedoms are allowed to succeed.”

This cowardly fear-mongering has long been used by authorities to strip citizens of their rights: They are going to get you, unless you surrender your basic civil rights!

Actually, I should clarify that statement; it should read: They are going to get you, unless you surrender the basic civil rights of those dark-skinned, foreign-looking Moozlums!

Sadly, most Americans succumb to this alarmist rhetoric, readily surrendering what is not theirs to give away to begin with: the Constitutional rights of our nation’s most vulnerable minority.

Bloomberg continued:

We have to keep this country safe. This is a dangerous place. Make no mistake about it. It’s very cute to go and to blame everybody and say we should stay away from…[policies like] intelligence gathering. The job of our law enforcement is to make sure that they prevent things and you only do that by being proactive.

A dangerous place?  In fact, those big bad Islamic terrorists have killed zero civilians in the United States since 9/11, which was over a decade ago.  A similar situation exists in Europe, with Europol’s annual terrorism reports showing zero civilian deaths from Islamic terrorism in the last half decade (which is as far back as the annual terrorism reports go).  Quite simply, as an American I have a higher chance of being struck by and killed by lightning–or of being killed by peanuts–than of being killed by Islamic terrorists.  No amount of fear-mongering, alarmist propaganda, and Islamophobic rhetoric can overcome this simple fact, which is why it bears repetition:

In the past decade, zero civilians have been killed in this country by Islamic terrorists.  

Therefore, it is a boldfaced lie to claim that the threat of terrorism is so grave and ominous that we must resort to such illegal and unethical tactics to Keep Us Safe.

Bloomberg regurgitates the standard nationalistic myth, saying:

Remind yourself when you turn off the light tonight, you have your job because there are young men and women who have been giving their lives overseas for the last 200 plus years so that we would have freedom of the press. And we go after the terrorists. We are going to continue to do that and the same thing is true for the people that work on the streets of our cities.

This “argument” is often used to quell debate and stifle criticism: “[our] young men and women have been giving their lives overseas for the last 200 plus years so that we would have freedom of the press.”  This argument, steeped in uber-patriotism and drenched in nationalistic propaganda, is intended to fly over rational debate (what does the “giving [of] lives overseas for the last 200 plus years” have anything to do with “freedom of the press”?), and tap into our basest emotions: anyone who dares reject this argument by pointing out that it is not just a non-sequitur but patently false runs the risk of being accused of lack of patriotism and of being “un-American”.

This is so, as I wrote earlier, because the military is our country’s most sacred institution:

The military is our national religion, its soldiers are our holy warriors, the Navy Seals are our highest religious order, those soldiers who died in war are our martyrs, 9/11 was our Karbala, Patriot Day is our annual holy day, the flag is our holy book and symbol, Osama bin Laden is Lucifer, Terrorism is the greatest Evil, supporting the troops is our greatest religious obligation, and failure to do so is the greatest blasphemy and the highest of sins.

It is true that our military has been waging wars (of aggression) “overseas for the last 200 plus years”, as I documented in another article of mine: “We’re at War!” — And We Have Been Since 1776: 214 Years of American War-Making.  But, this is hardly something to be proud of…and these wars had nothing to do with “freedom of the press”–most of them had everything to do with spreading American hegemony and usurping the resources of other peoples (and in doing so, stripping them of their most basic civil liberties).

In fact, the greatest insults to the freedom of the press have historically been during times of war.  The First Amendment Center notes in The First Amendment: A Wartime Casualty?:

Sanford Levinson, a law professor at the University of Texas, writes: “It is difficult to read our constitutional history … without believing that the Constitution is often reduced at best to a whisper during times of war.”

The First Amendment is no exception. Attorney Michael Linfield, author of Freedom Under Fire: U.S. Civil Liberties in Times of War, writes: “Rather than being an exception, war-era violations of civil liberties in the United States are the accepted norm for our government.”

The article goes on to mention numerous instances in American history when civil liberties (including freedom of the press) were stripped by the government during wartime.  The War on of Terror is certainly no exception.

I hesitate closing this article with the standard meme of “it is un-American to curtail civil liberties”, but after second thought, I will save my readers from this trite, mythical, and nationalistic mantra.  As our military history will attest to, it is actually very, very American to do so, at least when it comes to minorities: racism has beset our nation during most of her many wars, whether it was against American Indians, Hispanics, or Asians.  Today’s wars against Arabs/Muslims overseas–and the concomitant stripping away of their human rights both at home and abroad–simply mean staying true to a long-held American tradition.

Mayor Bloomberg affirms the fundamental myth of the War on of Terror, the idea that we need to wage foreign wars (and in the process curtail civil liberties) in order to stop terrorism.  This is a strongly held belief, even though nothing exacerbates the problem of terrorism more than these wars.  In fact, our military interventions in the Muslim world are the root cause of terrorism.  Targeting the American Muslim community is the wrong solution: the only way to stop terrorism is to end our many wars in the Muslim world.  That Americans today failed to realize this simple fact will be looked upon by future generations with amazement.

Update I:

A reader, Christian-friend, commented:

I don’t see him justifying racial profiling, be more accurate!

From the ACLU’s website:

Racial Profiling: Definition (2005 resource): “Racial Profiling” refers to the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.

Whenever in doubt, substitute “Jewish” for “Muslim” and see if it sounds right, i.e. it would be racial profiling if police targeted Jewish citizens.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

Beyond the Mosque: Bloomberg and New York’s Muslims

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on November 28, 2010 by loonwatch

Bloomberg’s defense of the Park51 proposal will never be forgotten but neither should be his mixed record in regards to the Muslim community.

Beyond the Mosque: Bloomberg and New York’s Muslims

(Gotham Magazine)

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg strongly defended the proposed Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero last August even as polls showed most New Yorkers opposed the project, he garnered some favorable media coverage and praise for his stance.

A New York Times editorial called Bloomberg “the leader with the courage to make the case” for the center. Tom Robbins, a Village Voice columnist and frequent critic of the mayor, wrote, “Mike Bloomberg did a brave and good deed for this city” when he spoke out in favor of the project, known as Park 51. Errol Louis called Bloomberg’s speech on Governors Island defending the proposed center “the finest speech of his career.” And the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights organization, praised Bloomberg for “defending the rights of Muslims and other Americans to build houses of worship.”

The mosque, while significant, is just one issue. Beyond that, many Muslim groups, faith leaders and activists who have applauded Bloomberg’s forceful defense of Park 51 say his administration has had a mixed and at times disappointing track record on policies affecting the Muslim community. Among other issues, they cite his failure to speak out on proposals for other mosques around the city, his refusal to provide a school holiday for Muslim holy days and the attitude of the police department toward Muslims in the city.

“We appreciate that Bloomberg came out and took a stand in a very difficult political moment, particularly a backlash against Muslim communities,” said Monami Maulik, the executive director of Desis Rising Up and Moving, a grassroots activist group serving the South Asian community. “On the other hand, we also saw it as window dressing in many ways because the bottom line is that it’s the policies and practices that the administration puts in place that affects the members of our community day to day.”

A Range of Concerns

An estimated 800,000 Muslims live in the city, and their numbers are growing. Not surprisingly, they have an array of concerns — extending far beyond a mosque in lower Manhattan. Interviews with a wide array of Muslim community leaders indicate that the Bloomberg administration and the city’s Muslim community have a complicated and nuanced relationship.

“It is a work in progress,” said Adem Carroll, the former executive director of the Muslim Consultative Network and the former coordinator for the Islamic Circle of North America’s 9/11 relief program. “He has hired some Muslims as commissioners who work very hard at being liaisons. He himself does not visit our community members very much, at least that’s the perception.”

Robina Niaz, the founder and executive director of Turning Point for Women and Families, a non-profit organization that seeks to address domestic violence within the Muslim community, said she has seen a “marked change in the last several months” toward the positive in how Bloomberg is perceived in the Muslim community.

Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, an African-American leader at the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, describes the relationship between the Bloomberg administration and the Muslim community as “strained.” But he said, “There has been a demonstration of some political sensitivity on the part of that administration toward some issues of importance to the Muslim community.” For example, ‘Abdur-Rashid said, after a September 2009 fire badly damaged a mosque in the Bronx that served a large West African Muslim community, “the Bloomberg administration was a great help and assistance to them, helping them to find a temporary place to worship.”

However, a consensus exists that the Bloomberg administration needs to reach out more to the Muslim community, especially in a difficult political climate for Muslims.

“Just because he supported Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Park 51, that doesn’t mean every other issue should be taken off the burner,” said Niaz.

In an interview, Fatima Shama, a Palestinian-American Muslim who is the commissioner for immigrant affairs under the Bloomberg administration, forcefully defended the administration’s efforts.

Bloomberg “has engaged with the Muslim community more than any other mayor in this city,” said Shama, noting that she was the first Muslim hired to be commissioner of immigrant affairs. Shama also pointed out that Bloomberg holds an annual Iftar dinner, to mark the fast breaking during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The Voice of Reason

With anti-Muslim prejudice seemingly on the rise across the country, many Muslims in New York would like the mayor to go beyond his speech on the mosque and community center near Ground Zero. In particular, they wish he would speak out on the battles over proposed mosques elsewhere in the city. In the Midland Beach neighborhood of Staten Island, the board of a Catholic Church blocked plans for a proposed mosque when, in the face of harsh condemnation, they refused to sell a vacant convent to a Muslim organization. In Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, a proposed mosque and community center has also sparked controversy.

“Bloomberg this time around chose to stand on the right side of history on the Park 51 controversy by making that eloquent speech, but I don’t think that he should stop there. I think he’s positioned uniquely as a mayor, as a national leader, to lead the charge against Islamophobia if he really wants to redeem himself in the eyes of Muslim New Yorkers considering that he’s failed them a few times,” said Debbie Almontaser, the founder and former principal of theKhalil Gibran International Academy, the city’s first dual-language Arabic public school.

In 2007, many Muslims and other New Yorkers believe, Almotaser fell victim of that prejudice when a right-wing campaign targeted the school and Almontaser. Following an article in the New York Post that claimed she “downplayed the significance” of T-shirts bearing the word “intifada,” she was“forced to resign following a directive from Bloomberg, according to Almontaser. Earlier this year, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined that the Department of Education discriminated against Almontaser and “succumbed to the very bias that the creation of the school intended to dispel.”

Almontaser’s resignation remains on the mind of many community leaders.

Perceptions of the mayor’s actions don’t stop at New York’s borders. While Bloomberg does not have a role in formulating foreign policy, many Muslim activists disapprovingly cited his staunch support for Israel, and specifically his January 2009 visit to Israel while the country waged an assault on the Gaza Strip in Palestine.

“His relationship with Israel, supporting Israel with no limits, hurts us,” said Zein Rimawi, a member of the New York City-based Arab Muslim American Federation. “Don’t forget: We are Arabs, we are Muslims, and the people in Gaza are Arabs and Muslims and we support them.”

Under Suspicion

In addition, Muslim leaders have concern about New York Police Department counter-terrorism practices in the Bloomberg era. Civil rights organizations like CAIR-NY and DRUM have of police harassment of Muslims in New York.

Arguably the biggest irritant came when the police department released a 2007 report, titled Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat. The report detailed the process by which it saw some American Muslims as being “radicalized” into terrorists and said that, while Americans Muslims are “more resistant to radicalization than their European counterparts, they are not immune.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations promptly criticized the report, saying, “Its sweeping generalizations and mixing of unrelated elements may serve to cast a pall of suspicion over the entire American Muslim community.” In the wake of the report, the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition formed and critiqued the report for presenting “a distorted and misleading depiction of Islam and its adherents.”

Following meetings with Muslim organizations, the police department quietly issued a two-page clarification that stressed that the “NYPD’s focus on al Qaeda inspired terrorism should not be mistaken for any implicit or explicit justification for racial, religious or ethnic profiling.”

While Muslim organizations welcomed the clarification, criticism of the report remains.

“It’s not clear what the NYPD really thinks, because it’s leaving the bulk of its assertions and its conclusions in place,” said Faiza Patel, who works with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Project. The clarification “didn’t address all of [the Muslim community’s] concerns. The way it was done — really kind of hidden there — makes it seem as if the police department is talking out of two sides of its mouth.”

The police did not respond to requests for comment. But Shama defended the department, saying it has many Muslims in the police force and also has aMuslim Officers Society whose mission includes promoting “a mutual understanding between the NYPD and the Muslim community.”

“I don’t think there are any broad brushes or generalizations in the report,” said Shama, when asked about Muslim community leaders’ criticism of the document. “But we do have a policy that if you see something, say something. … It’s a new day in a new country,” she said, referring to the post-9/11 world.

No Days Off

Bloomberg’s opposition to closing public schools on two Muslim holidays — Eid Ul-Fitr and Eid Ul-Adha — disappointed many in the Muslim community — particularly after the City Council approved the change in the school calendar. In July 2009, the New York City Council passed a nonbinding resolution calling for the inclusion of Eid Ul-Fitr and Eid Ul-Adha, two Muslim holidays, into the school calendar. Underscoring the issue, parent-teacher conferences this year are being held today, which is also Eid Ul-Adha.

The administration opposed the measure, saying that the school system can’t celebrate every holiday. “One of the problems you have with a diverse city is that if you close the schools for every single holiday, there won’t be any school,” Bloomberg has said.

Shama said the Bloomberg administration “absolutely listened to all the requests and concerns of the school holidays coalition” before taking its position. Despite that, ‘Abdur-Rashid said, the administration stand “left a very bad taste in the mouths of many Muslims.”

Faiza Ali, the director of community affairs for CAIR-NY, said her organization is still pursuing the issue. “We’re looking to the leadership of the mayor and chancellor…[to] re-tool the school calendar to fit the needs of the community,” she said.

Alex Kane blogs on Israel/Palestine and Islamophobia in the United States athttp://alexbkane.wordpress.com/, and you can follow him on Twitter here. His work has also appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, The Electronic Intifada, Common Dreams, Palestine Chronicle and Alternet. He is a former intern at the Gotham Gazette.

 

Mayor Bloomberg: Candidate for Anti-Loon of the Year

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2010 by loonwatch

Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg is a candidate for anti-Loon of the year due to his consistent defense of religious liberty and steadfast support of the political hot-potato issue of the Park51 Cultural Center, aka the “Ground Zero Mosque.”

Bloomberg Launches Another Impassioned Defense Of Cordoba House

by Sam Stein

In a rousing address before a predominantly Muslim audience Tuesday night, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reaffirmed his commitment to the controversial Islamic cultural center near the former site of the World Trade Center.

Bloomberg, who hosted the annual Ramadan Iftar dinner at his official Gracie Mansion residence, did not back away from his position as the most vocal and public defender of the so-called “Ground Zero mosque.” If anything, he couched his defense of the project in even deeper moral and political terms, calling the Cordoba House a telling illustration of intrinsic American principles and a valuable tool in the war on terror.

From Bloomberg’s prepared remarks:

But if we say that a mosque and community center should not be built near the perimeter of the World Trade Center site, we would compromise our commitment to fighting terror with freedom.

We would undercut the values and principles that so many heroes died protecting. We would feed the false impressions that some Americans have about Muslims. We would send a signal around the world that Muslim Americans may be equal in the eyes of the law, but separate in the eyes of their countrymen. And we would hand a valuable propaganda tool to terrorist recruiters, who spread the fallacy that America is at war with Islam.
Islam did not attack the World Trade Center — Al-Qaeda did. To implicate all of Islam for the actions of a few who twisted a great religion is unfair and un-American. Today we are not at war with Islam — we are at war with Al-Qaeda and other extremists who hate freedom.[snip]

The members of our military are men and women at arms — battling for hearts and minds. And their greatest weapon in that fight is the strength of our American values, which have always inspired people around the world. But if we do not practice here at home what we preach abroad — if we do not lead by example – we undermine our soldiers. We undermine our foreign policy objectives. And we undermine our national security.

While some of the cultural center’s other early supporters have backed away from their defense of the project, Bloomberg has emerged as perhaps the least fickle of its supporters. And he’s been hailed for that defense — locally, nationally and among the commentariat — even though a majority of the public opposes the Cordoba House’s proposed location.

Addressing those calling for a compromise location for the center, Bloomberg offered the logical rejoinder. “The question will then become, how big should the ‘no-mosque zone’ around the World Trade Center be?” he remarked. “There is already a mosque four blocks away. Should it too, be moved?”

However the debate ends, of course, there will be hard feelings. Still, the Mayor ended his remarks with an appeal to the lessons of history.

I know that many in this room are disturbed and dispirited by the debate. But it is worth keeping some perspective on the matter. The first colonial settlers came to these shores seeking religious liberty and the founding fathers wrote a constitution that guaranteed it. They made sure that in this country the government would not be permitted to choose between religions or favor one over another.

Nonetheless, it was not so long ago that Jews and Catholics had to overcome stereotypes and build bridges to those who viewed them with suspicion and less than fully American.

UPDATE: Video of Bloomberg’s speech is below.