How the NYPD Muslim Watch Crippled a Community

In Colorlines, Seth Freed Wessler parses the results of the NYPD's extensive surveillance of Muslims in the city to combat domestic terrorism.

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Muslims protest NYPD surveillance in 2011. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Living life always looking over your shoulder has become a way of life for many New York Muslims, writes Seth Freed Wessler at Colorlines.

Police officials have denied the human impact of the surveillance, claiming that because it was conducted in secret, it didn’t affect people’s day-to-day activities. But many of the Muslims quoted in the report—often on condition of anonymity—note that even before the Associated Press revealed the scale of the surveillance program, community members knew they were being watched. The AP’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation simply confirmed their worst fears: that there were undercover agents and a web of closed-circuit cameras capturing their every move, and that some of their fellow mosque-goers and classmates were actually informants.

The AP series uncovered an expansive system that police used to map and track the activities and whereabouts of Muslims from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, all in the name of stopping homegrown terrorism. The cops appeared to stop at nothing to build their map: One leaked document from the NYPD Intelligence Division and its so-called Demographics Unit even cited a small African American Muslim preschool in Newark, NJ.

Soheed Amin, who recently graduated from Brooklyn College where he was president of the Muslim Student Association, said after yesterday’s press conference that at least one police informant had joined his student group and another infiltrated his mosque. Now the 22-year-old expects informants to be everywhere, all the time. "From my own experience, it ruins your life to be suspicious of everyone around you."

Read Seth Freed Wessler's entire piece at Colorlines.

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