Press Release: Diverse Interfaith and Grass Roots Leaders Call on NYPD to Stop Profiling of Muslim Community
“This is not a Muslim Issue. This is an American Issue.”
Contacts: Sarah Sayeed, Interfaith Center of New York; email@example.com
Adem Carroll (646) 251 0402 and firstname.lastname@example.org
(March 14 – NY, NY) Diverse Christian, Jewish, Sikh and Muslim leaders gathered yesterday at historic Riverside Church to jointly express concern about the recent reports of extensive NYPD monitoring of the local Muslim community, in coordination with the National Interfaith Letter sent to Mayor Bloomberg by the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign on behalf of over 25 national and local religious groups, representing hundreds of thousands of people of faith, calling for an investigation into the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim communities and the materials used in police trainings.
Recalling that March 13 marks the 10th anniversary of NYPD Operations Order 11 explicitly forbidding racial profiling, representatives called on the NYPD to add religion to the list of characteristics such as color, race, and ethnicity, that it would not use to profile New Yorkers, and to put into practice what Commissioner Kelly promulgated 10 years ago.
Leaders expressed deep concern that the NYPD has crossed the line from proactive safety measures to spying on our City’s residents – even when there is no cause for suspicion. Many noted that spying without cause is not solely a “Muslim issue.” It is an American issue. Rev. Stephen Phelps of Riverside Church called it a “crisis for people of faith all over the city.”
The press conference came on the same day as divergent poll results from Quinnipiac University and Baruch College were publicized. While both studies showed high approval for the NYPD’s work on combating terrorism, the polls showed different responses on questions about the NYPD’s treatment of Muslims, depending on how the questions were asked. When asked about the Quinnipiac results showing that 58% of New Yorkers stated that the NYPD had acted appropriately, religious leaders noted that just because it is a popular view, the targeting does not become legal or moral. They urged careful use of these data, acknowledging that in past times of fear, the public has been known to support unwarranted targeting, internment, and even lynching of minorities. “It seems that if Prophet Muhammad, Jesus, and the Buddha were walking down the streets of New York City, all men of color, the odds are that they would be stopped and frisked by the NYPD today. This all has to stop,” demanded Rev.Dr. Earl Kooperkamp of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Harlem.
Harpreet Singh referred to the backlash directed at Sikh community members after 9/11 and called for a respect for Muslims, Sikhs, and all humanity. Afterwards, adding support to our message, Amardeep Singh , of the White House Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and Co-Founder of the Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh American civil rights organization, made his views quite clear: “ Simply praying while Muslim or studying while Muslim should not in itself attract police spies, but in the NYPD’s world it does. We remain concerned that in the name of protecting our freedoms the NYPD is destroying them.”
Noted Rev. Robert Chase of Intersections International, “It is difficult to understand why the NYPD would choose such a divisive and alienating approach to these communities rather than working more cooperatively with their members. We urge the Commissioner to attend a town hall convened by New York Muslim leaders to hear community members’ concerns and regain their respect and trust instead of playing them off each other.”
“We must add our concern as well about the inflammatory video The Third Jihad seen by almost 1,500 police officers, especially problematic at a time when virulent anti-Muslim sentiment is increasing around the nation,” added the Rev. Chloe Breyer of ICNY. “For the last 13 years the Interfaith Center of NY has been working to make our shared city a better and safer place for all people; and in that spirit we call again on the NYPD to further develop its accountability, transparency and unbiased education about the diverse communities it serves.”
Joyce S. Dubensky, Esq. CEO of Tanenbaum Center added her perspective. “At this sensitive juncture, the NYPD would benefit from diversity training. It also should hold officers accountable for treating American Muslims, not suspected of any wrongdoing, with full respect. If the NYPD were to do this, it would be in a position to work closely with the Muslim community. And that will continue to keep our city safe, for all of us.” Added Rabbi Justus Baird of Auburn Theological Seminary, “New York doesn’t need a Religion Police Force; NY needs a police force that understands religion.”
Rabbi Simkha Weintraub of Rabbis for Human Rights offered a prayer, asking God’s “assistance to help New York’s Finest move from infiltrating to inspiring, from profiling, pigeon-holing, and polarizing to partnering, public service, and peacemaking, and from planting seeds of divisiveness and discord to promoting common cause and joint purpose.”
In an August 2010 speech at Governors Island Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else…Muslims are as much a part of our city and our country as the people of any faith.”
However, to fully support the constitutionally-protected right to worship—and to do so without scrutiny— for every religious community, and to avoid a lasting crisis of trust resulting from indiscriminate Stop and Frisk, Muslim community surveillance and other controversial policies, participants in today’s press conference also urged the NYPD to accept an independent Inspector General or adopt another form of oversight that will ensure checks and balances as well as greater transparency. Frank Fredericks, an evangelical Christian leader urged Police Commissioner Kelly not to step down, but rather to “step up” to the task at hand.
In the end, we come back to basic teachings of the Golden Rule. In summary, one of the organizers of the National Letter to Mayor Bloomberg, Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, stated: “I regret that NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg think that surveillance of the Muslim community and religious profiling makes our communities safe. Biblical teachings for thousands of years teach that treating people well and working for justice make us safe. Our religious traditions all emphasize that security comes from being fair to each other and treating others the way that we want to be treated.”
Also see press release from New York City Council Member Helen Diane Foster.