Some Muslims boycott, others back Bloomberg

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, right, shakes hands

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, right, shakes hands with Imam Mohammed Sherzad during the mayor's annual interfaith breakfast at the New York Public Library. (Dec. 30, 2011) (Credit: AP)

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While 15 Muslim leaders boycotted the mayor's annual interfaith breakfast Friday morning, others there distanced themselves from the protesters by praising Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the NYPD for keeping the city safe.

"We support the mayor and the [police] commissioner for their efforts and, regarding this issue, I think some of . . . are misguided," Mohammad Razvi, executive director of the nonprofit Council of Peoples Organization, said at the event in midtown's New York Public Library.

The leaders had called for the boycott because of the mayor's support for the NYPD's surveillance of the Muslim community.

Imam Qazi Mohd A. Qayyoom of the Muhammadi community center in Jackson Heights said, "If they have anything to say, they must come here, join together and say it." He called the boycotting leaders "radicals," adding "somewhere they're doing something wrong, that's why they don't want police to go there to find out what they're doing."

Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, one of the groups that participated in the boycott, disagreed, saying: "While there were Muslims in attendance, there is consensus among the Muslim American community that NYPD's suspicionless surveillance is unequivocally wrong and must be investigated."

According to an Associated Press investigation, police sent informants into mosques, monitored people who legally changed their names or adopted the Islamic faith, and infiltrated organizations in the name of preventing terrorism.

Bloomberg has defended the NYPD, which denies the accusations in the AP report. Bloomberg did not address the controversy during his 13- minute speech at the breakfast, but he quoted his father, who said "discrimination against anyone is discrimination against everyone." Some of those at the breakfast supported the boycott. Rabbi Michael Weisser of the Free Synagogue of Flushing said that he understood what it was like when a government singled out a certain community. He said that he would work with Muslim leaders to sit down with the mayor and "bridge the gap between the city's story and the AP story."

"I think that other faith groups should be concerned because, if it's true that there's unfettered surveillance, anybody can be surveilled. It almost goes with what the mayor said when he quoted his father," Weisser said.

With AP

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