US & Canada

NYPD under fire for memo on Shia community

Imam Malik Sakhawat Hussain puts on formal garb for an interview at the Al-Mahdi Foundation in New York, 1 February 2012
Image caption The al-Mahdi Foundation, a mosque in Queens, was one of the Shia locations listed by the NYPD

Civic groups from around the US are calling for a legal investigation into intelligence-gathering on Shia Muslims by the New York Police Department.

The complaint comes after an internal memo became public recommending increased surveillance of the city's Shia community.

Muslims gathered near police headquarters on Friday in protest over the NYPD memo.

Top police officials insist the police only follow-up legitimate leads.

The memo, part of a 2006 report, recommended expanding the NYPD's spying operation on Shia mosques and Muslim centres. It was addressed to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

On Thursday, Mr Kelly called the memo a "contingency plan" in case of military conflict between the US and Iran, although no such language is used in the document.

The report was made public by the Associated Press as part of a series of reports on the NYPD's response to terrorism.

The police commissioner is already under fire for appearing in the "The Third Jihad", a controversial movie about Muslims.

'Disturbing picture'

In their letter, addressed to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, thirty-three groups said that the memo further uncovered "a disturbing picture about the NYPD's institutional approach" to the Muslim community that "erodes the public's trust and confidence".

"The need to hold the NYPD accountable for its flagrant use of discriminatory policing practices has never been more glaring and urgent," the letter says.

Mr Schneiderman's office did not offer comment on the letter.

Mosque president Asad Sadiq of Bait-ul-Qaim in New Jersey, one of the institutions listed in the NYPD memo, said the department's policy was noticeably different than that of the FBI, which has occasional meetings with him to discuss security issues.

Mr Sadiq said the NYPD would be more than welcome in his mosque if they came in announced, like the FBI does.

"Just because we are the same religion doesn't mean we're going to stand up and harm the United States,'' he told the Associated Press. "It's really absurd.''

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