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Praying while Shi’a: the NYPD’s latest religious profiling scandal

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
Ray Kelly Kelly Kelly
New York Police Chief, Ray Kelly

How is it possible that New York police chief Ray Kelly still has a job?

Days after news broke that Kelly gamely sat for an interview for The Third Jihad, the anti-Muslim agitprop-cum-police training video, the Associated Press (bless its investigative soul) has broken news of yet another New York Police Department outrage: in May 2006, as tensions flared between the US and Iran, the NYPD “recommended increasing surveillance of thousands of Shiite Muslims and their mosques, based solely on their religion, as a way to sweep the Northeast for signs of Iranian terrorists.”That’s right, a whole religious group was deemed potentially suspect simply because they happen to worship the dominant form of Islam practiced in Iran.

The NYPD’s stunning surveillance recommendations were devised as part of a secret intelligence report prepared specifically for Kelly and titled, “US-Iran Conflict: The Threat to New York City.” At nine pages long, the document is filled with troubling tactics and targets, including a list of more than a dozen mosques, stretching from Connecticut to New Jersey, that were identified for surveillance despite no clear evidence of terrorist activity. Even more damning, perhaps, is the simple, eight-word sentence buried part-way down page two: “Expand and focus intelligence collections at Shi’a mosques.” Both New York City law and the NYPD’s own guidelines clearly prohibit this kind of religious profiling.  (Of course, the NYPD is also prohibited from engaging in racial profiling, but that hasn’t stopped its officers from stopping-and-frisking almost every black man who crosses their paths in certain city neighborhoods.)

And the outrages don’t stop there. In addition to its long list of Shi’a targets, the document also recommends tracking Palestinians living in New York City.Why Palestinians? Because, the report claims, Iran supports Hamas, and New York’s Palestinian community happens to contain some “Hamas members and sympathizers.” Call it the transitive property of Islamophobic profiling.

As the report warns:

The Palestinian community, although not Shi’a, should also be assessed due to presence of Hamas members and sympathizers and the group’s relationship with the Iranian government. According to US Census data, 3,100 Palestinians reside in NYC.

It’s not clear at this point whether the NYPD implemented all or even any of the recommendations of the “US-Iran Conflict” report. While Kelly claims that the report was merely a “contingency plan,” a former police official told the AP that the recommendations were generally followed. Either way, however, the recommendations are part of a pattern and practice of religious profiling — make that Muslim profiling — that raises serious questions about the leadership of the police department. What if the victims of all this profiling had been Catholics or gay men or Jews? What if Kelly had appeared in a conspiracy video called, say, The Third Temple, conflating all Jewish observance with fundamentalism and warning of a Jewish conspiracy to overthrew US culture and politics? Heads would have rolled, apologies would have been issued. And that would have been right, proper. As it is, neither has happened.

There is still time, however. Just yesterday, 33 civil rights groups called for an investigation by New York State’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, into the NYPD’s surveillance practices. “The need to hold the NYPD accountable for its flagrant use of discriminatory policing practices has never been more glaring and urgent,” the groups wrote. They are awaiting Schneiderman’s response.

Lizzy Ratner
About Lizzy Ratner

Lizzy Ratner is a journalist in New York City. She is a co-editor with Adam Horowitz and Philip Weiss of The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict.

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13 Responses

  1. lareineblanche
    February 4, 2012, 9:31 am

    Call it the transitive property of Islamophobic profiling.

    Remember : Muslims, like oil, are fungible.

  2. Les
    February 4, 2012, 1:12 pm

    Keep in mind a title for the video suggested here on Mondoweiss that makes clear the producers’ intent and in which Kelly agreed to play his part.

    “The Protocols of the Elders of Mecca”

  3. Walid
    February 4, 2012, 1:24 pm

    That’s not profiling, that’s ignorance. New York’s finest still haven’t figured out that both attacks on the World Trade Center did not involve Iranians and did not involve any Shia either. And neither was the proposed new NYC mosque that caused such a stir. That’s really barking up the wrong tree.

    • dahoit
      February 5, 2012, 10:57 am

      And as the FBI had no evidence of Al Qaeda either,under what tree should we bark?

    • Mooser
      February 6, 2012, 12:42 pm

      “New York’s finest still haven’t figured out that both attacks on the World Trade Center did not involve Iranians and did not involve any Shia either”

      Sure, maybe. But can you guarantee that Iranians or Shia won’t be involved the next time the World Trade Center is demolished?

  4. HarryLaw
    February 4, 2012, 1:31 pm

    The Dept of Homeland Security have a campaign running called ” if you see something say something” For instance, Someone looking at a Government building or historic building, joggers who stand and stretch for a long time, drivers who operate vehicles in an overly cautious manner and people who pay in cash for things. Thousands of such ‘leads’ are generated and they all have to be investigated, no one has been arrested for terrorism, it beggars belief the billions being squandered by these scare tactics , the US must have money to burn, Why are Americans so afraid, could it be their Governments foreign policy choices are coming back to haunt them. Any concerted campaign of terror like we had in the UK with the IRA would surely bankrupt America and turn it into a police state.

  5. Robert Werdine
    Robert Werdine
    February 4, 2012, 2:36 pm

    “Expand and focus intelligence collections at Shi’a mosques.”

    This is chilling. Instead of targeting Shi’a houses of worship for surveillance, they would do better in stepping up protection from Islamophobic vandals. Our mosque in Michigan City, Indiana–one of the first mosques built on this continent–has been vandalized twice in the last five years.

    Once in July 2006

    And again in August 2011

    It’s not clear if the latest one was just vandalism or hate-inspired, but I’m beginning to have my doubts that it was the former. Our mosque is in a rural area outside town, and there has long been tension between some of the Pakistani gas station owners in the area and the locals. Too many times over the years I have heard reference to “towel heads” and the like in passing among them.

    • Chaos4700
      February 4, 2012, 3:21 pm

      I’m glad to hear you actually saying something sane that I can agree with.

    • Mooser
      February 6, 2012, 12:44 pm

      Gosh, how could one website have so many different people with the name “Robert Werdine” posting? Is it possible “Werdine” means “Anonymous” in an obscure language I am not aware of?

  6. hass
    February 4, 2012, 11:20 pm

    You need to read a fuller version of this article — the program was indeed carried out. The funniest part: “Muslims make up only a fraction of New York’s Iranian community so squad members returned from their rounds in Iranian neighborhoods and reported finding Jews and Christians, the former official said.”

    Ironically Fox has picked up and printed this AP article:

  7. tidings
    February 5, 2012, 10:08 am

    “Muslims make up only a fraction of New York’s Iranian community so squad members returned from their rounds in Iranian neighborhoods and reported finding Jews and Christians, the former official said.”

    And of course not all Palestinians are Muslims: somewhat less than 10% of Palestinians in the OPT and Israel are Christian. Worldwide, 6% of Palestinians are Christian with more than half of them living outside Palestine.

    Did the intelligence collectors scour New York’s churches too or didn’t they know to look there? Palestinian Christians?? V
    ery confusing indeed.

  8. Theo
    February 6, 2012, 10:51 am

    “3,100 palestinians live in NYC”.

    And how many israeli citizens and american zionists, a good base for a large
    5th column?

    • Les
      February 6, 2012, 11:57 am

      When you say Israeli citizens, do you include dual citizen Americans? Add to these numbers, Zionists, with or without Israeli citizenship, who accept and proclaim that Israel is their first country.

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