‘Praying While Muslim is Not a Crime’

Mani Yousef, 15, was stopped and frisked twice. She told the audience, “How are we supposed to feel safe living in an environment where we are seen as guilty until proven innocent by the NYPD?” (Photo by Aisha Asif via The Brooklyn Ink)

Nearly a month after a report exposed the harrowing impact of NYPD surveillance on Muslims, community members and activists took to the steps of Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse in lower Manhattan to speak out against stop-and-frisk, police surveillance and other practices they say are implemented based not just on their ethnicity, but also on their religion, reports The Brooklyn Ink.

The sentiments voiced at last Wednesday’s demonstration echoed the many protests and marches that have seen African Americans, Latinos and the LGBT community speaking out against stop-and-frisk. This protest also came during the second session of a trial on the NYPD’s use of the controversial practice.

“The trial is exposing things we already know as a community — that the NYPD has been considering skin color alone as reasonable suspicion and probable cause,” said Muneer Awad, executive director of the New York chapter of the Council of American and Islamic Relations.

Nahal Zamani from the Center for Constitutional Rights, which brought forth the lawsuit, said many people who have been stopped and frisked no longer feel safe outside, even near their homes and members of the community say they are afraid to attend their local mosques for prayer and engage in other activities together because the police might be spying on them.

“[W]hat comes as commonality between different types of discriminatory policing practices which include stop-and-frisk and the surveillance of Muslim communities is that entire communities are bearing the costs of an NYPD out of control accountable to no one,” said Zamani.

Some attendees came to show their solidarity, their words no less relevant to other groups of color and no less critical.

Signs and slogans echo the sentiments of Muslim demonstrators protesting stop-and-frisk and warrantless surveillance. (Photo by Aisha Asif via The Brooklyn Ink)

Ayisha Irfan, a recent college graduate who attended Brooklyn College — designated by the NYPD as a place “of concern” — attended the Floyd trial to stand in solidarity with the plaintiffs, and hoped the trial would lead to the dismantling of heavy-handed police tactics.

“The implications that either stop-and-frisk and surveillance have us essentially living in a police state,” she said. “So once you combat a little bit of that it’s a huge victory as a whole.”

Amid chants of “Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Stop-and-frisk has got to go!” Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid of the Islamic leadership council of Metropolitan New York said that he was standing in solidarity with the younger people often targeted by the NYPD.

“We don’t have the big bucks of Mayor Bloomberg and we don’t have the PR machine of Ray Kelly but we have the truth on our side,” he said. “And we intend to be here and continue to be here until this problem which is fueled by institutional racism is solved once and for all.”

Councilman Robert Jackson, who has filed an amicus brief in opposition to stop-and-frisk, repeated the words on a poster at the rally: “Walking while black and praying while Muslim is not a crime.”

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