Hispanic Muslims Say They Are Still under Surveillance

Tusha Díaz and Sadia Irfan, at the Islamic Center of Union City, N.J., say that their community is still under surveillance (Photo by Gerardo Romo via El Diario).

Tusha Díaz and Sadia Irfan, at the Islamic center in Union City, New Jersey, say that their community is still under surveillance. (Photo by Gerardo Romo via El Diario).

In spite of the New York Police Department’s decision last month to discontinue its surveillance of the Muslim community in the city, many of its Hispanic members said that they still feel observed by federal agencies.

A 19-year-old Muslim woman who preferred to remain anonymous said that she was followed less than a month ago by two plainclothes officers. They tagged along from the moment she left her university campus in Manhattan until she arrived in her job in Brooklyn.

“I noticed that they were cops because they were wearing their badges on their belts,” said the political science major, of Puerto Rican descent. A single woman who converted to Islam two years ago, she said she is afraid of being followed again because of her hijab, the traditional headscarf worn by Muslim women.

The NYPD announced last April 15 that they were dismantling their “Zone Assessment Unit,” created in 2002, which operated under the name “Demographics Unit.” The team was in charge of monitoring areas where Muslim communities concentrate in order to detect terrorist threats. The measure was deemed by several community groups to be a civil rights violation.

Maliah Khan, a 36-year-old Puerto Rican, said that the disappearance of the surveillance unit is “a great achievement.” However, the Bronx resident, who converted to Islam a year ago, is still worried that federal agents are watching her religious community.

“We have nothing to hide, but this makes us look like we are evil people,” said Khan.

Tusha Díaz, a 35-year-old woman who prays at the North Hudson Islamic Educational Center in Union City, New Jersey, said that she has no fear because “we haven’t done anything wrong.” Still, she said that she knows of undocumented people who are afraid to go to their mosques precisely because of the high surveillance.

“The uncertainty about being watched scares them away,” said Díaz.

Kefah Elabed, executive board member of the Center, said that he would not be surprised if they were still being watched. He said, however, that “we work hard to prove who we really are.” The mosque, located in the city with the highest concentration of Hispanics in New Jersey, has at least 1,000 regular worshipers, of whom about 100 are Latino.

FBI Informants

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, legal adviser to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR – Florida), said that there is still a long way to go for the monitoring to stop.

Ruiz, a Muslim chaplain of Puerto Rican descent, said he would not be surprised if the FBI was still recruiting informants, one of the most condemned practices in the program. “We received complaints from Muslims who have been stopped by the FBI trying to overtly offer them money – or even threaten them – to become informers.”

Yousef Abdallah, Northeast operations manager for Islamic Relief USA, said that the surveillance violates their privacy and their civil liberties. “I do not believe that protecting the country justifies singling out and stalking a community.” He added that he was a victim of persecution last year when he was followed by the FBI for four months.

Sadia Irfan, a 32-year-old Mexican who converted to Islam two years ago, said that the problem is not that they are being watched. “The problem is that they [the authorities] could do something against us,” she said.

One Comment

  1. Gettingby says:

    “Hispanic Muslims Say They Are Still under Surveillance”
    Maybe they should be.

    This article was written in 1936 by Hilaire Belloc

    It outlines Islam from its inception until 1936. Islam from its inception has waged war against the west and Christianity. It nearly won several times. Islam is back in full force and the war continues. Read the history we have forgotten. We are losing.again.


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