THE Majlis Ash-Shura of Metropolitan (Islamic Leadership Council) New York is boycotting this year’s annual Bagel with Bloomberg event. Imam Al-Hajj Talib 'Abdur-Rashid, the Amir (President) of Majlis ASh-Shura of Metropolitan New York issued following statement;
As-Salaamu 'Alaikum wa Rahmatullaahi wa Barakatuhu.
Like many of you, I have received an invitation from the Mayor's Office to attend his annual end-of-the-year Interfaith Breakfast, on Friday, December 30, 2011.
As you know, each year on the last weekday of December, Mayor Michael Bloomberg invites diverse religious leaders from around New York City to a celebratory breakfast, to listen to him, and share prayers and presentations by a range of religious representatives. Until now,New York Muslim leaders have been happy to be part of this tradition. I have been present several times myself in both Manhattan (at the NY Public Library) and Brooklyn (at the Brooklyn Academy of Music)
However this year, although a considerable number of Muslim New Yorkers continue to strongly value the civic and interfaith relationships celebrated at this annual event, many of us have decided to stay away from it. Our purpose is to protest the mayor’s clear lack of sensitivity to our concerns, as shown by the now widely revealed, shocking and unprecedented scope of NYPD surveillance of the NYC Muslim community. From his public statements, the Mayor clearly supports such tactics.
A series of detailed reports by the Associated Press this fall, has made it clear that the NYPD has created links with the CIA, undertaken systematic profiling of our community businesses, student clubs and religious institutions (including Muslim elementary and secondary schools). This has been done through the use of Demographic Units, and an unknown number of informants dispatched throughout our peaceful communities. This revelation has damaged community trust in the police department.
The NYPD is responsible for such troubling actions at a time when both rogue police activities and massive stop and frisk policies, have caught public attention. After its troubling use of pepper spray against non-violent Occupy Wall Street protesters, and the unprecedented restriction of direct media coverage during the recent closure of the OWS encampment, the NYPD continues to show a serious lack of accountability.
Mr. Bloomberg is ultimately responsible for these policies. We cannot ignore this crisis in our relationship with his administration. Though Muslim New Yorkers are sincerely committed to the security of our city, gradually increasing restrictions on our civil liberties have made us ever more aware of the importance of safeguarding our rights.
Just over the past few weeks, unconstitutional provisions for indefinite detention of citizens were passed by the House and Senate, and now await the President's signature. Islamophobic media distortions have poisoned political speech, and the ongoing climate of fear-mongering has even impacted the training of both local and federal law enforcement. Moreover, we know that these assaults on essential privacy and civil rights are not only Muslim concerns, but the human rights of all are increasingly at risk.
In the past, Mayor Bloomberg has shown he understands some similar concerns. During the politically-driven media and public hysteria about the Park 51 mosque and community center, the Mayor’s defense of religious freedom was most welcome. However there have been other times—as during the bombing of Gaza, when he failed to convey at least a measure of sympathy to both sides at another such end of the year interfaith breakfast—when many Muslims have felt that Mr. Bloomberg does not fully hear our voices or recognize his responsibility to represent all communities.
As Congressman Jerry Nadler admonished this month, “It is the mayor’s job... to ensure that the Police Department, under his command, obeys the laws and respects the rights of all New Yorkers.” Congressman Nadler and other elected officials have sent a request to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. , asking him to investigate whether the police in New York and other cities had deprived OWS protesters of rights protected by the Constitution or by law, and to determine “what can be done to prevent future similar actions.” We strongly urge that this investigation should also include the lack of checks and balances over NYPD surveillance policies, but note that Mayor Bloomberg has already quite bluntly disparaged even this call for accountability.
Further, The American Civil Liberties Union recently revealed that the FBI is using its extensive community outreach to Muslims and other groups, to secretly gather intelligence around the nation in violation of federal law. Here at home, the Associated Press has reported that the NYPD has also compiled dossiers on the same Muslim leaders who have been most cordial and open to dialogue with police, by allowing officials to make presentations to our youth, and opening Mosques to visits.
These important revelations strongly indicate that behind the scenes of our public exchanges, our whole community is suspect in the eyes of the authorities. How are the Muslim people to feel safe and respected if their leaders prefer bagels with Bloomberg, over the dignity of our community?
Now just yesterday, Congresswoman Judy Chu, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), Congressman Bobby Scott, CAPAC Civil Rights Taskforce Chair, and Congressman Mike Honda, CAPAC Chair Emeritus, released statements regarding a letter they sent to the House Judiciary Committee, and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Their letters called for a hearing and investigation of the New York Police Department, regarding its revealed relationship with the CIA, collaborating on efforts to spy on Muslim communities in the New York City area. The letter was signed by 34 Members of Congress, including the Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee and eight Members of the House Judiciary Committee.(SEE BELOW). As you can see, this is a very serious matter that is gaining momentum
We believe that the Mayor should fully embrace empowering a range of Muslim groups to be full and active partners in civic life, without compromising this through uncritical support for policies that damage that partnership. As New Yorkers, we are confident that our city would benefit from increased transparency in government and less divisive tactics, as well as from our honesty in addressing you in this matter.
In the spirit of recent community rallies on November 18 and December 15, we of the Majlis Ash-Shura Executive Committee are asking Muslim leaders to do the following:
1- TAKE A STAND AND BOYCOTT THIS YEAR'S EVENT
2- JOIN OUR CALL for our elected leaders to safeguard our freedoms through robust and independent oversight of police activities.
3- DEMAND THAT MAYOR BLOOMBERG express his clear and unambiguous public support for the rights and privacy of all New Yorkers, including Muslims; as well as his condemnation of all policies that profile and target communities and community groups.
5- JOIN US at an upcoming press conference to announce our collective stance.
I know from experience that there are those of you who are committed to engaging the Mayor and his representatives at any cost, and no matter what. However, the history of civil rights struggle in this country is proof that no such strategy can be successful unless it represents the collective will of the people and their leaders - not individuals or special interest groups. I say again that the above letter signed by 34 members of Congress is evidence that there are leaders who are responding to this matter with the gravity it deserves. I pray that we as Muslim leaders will do the same.
We of the Majlis Ash-Shura of Metropolitan NY are calling for you to join with us in collective deliberation and action during these critical times. If you haven't done so already, then start with this event.