A Muslim leader from Brentwood gave an impassioned plea Tuesday for the NYPD to rely more on alliances with his community and less on surveillance activity to protect the city from terrorism.
"We will help you more than you will be getting from spying on Muslims," Mustafa Senghor, told police commissioner Ray Kelly and other religious leaders at a pre-Ramadan conference at police headquarters.
Ramadan, which begins this year around July 9, signifies when Muslims believe the Quran was revealed. Kelly listened but didn't react to Senghor's remarks, which garnered some applause from the crowd that included leaders and members of the Islamic community from across the five boroughs.
Senghor, originally from Gambia and now head of the Harlem Islamic Cultural Center, later told Newsday that he believed law enforcement was wasting time and money by conducting undercover terrorism sting operations. Both the FBI and the NYPD have made cases against terror suspects who were ensnared after they were approached by undercover agents or informers. Several cases have led to convictions.
"That tactic is counterproductive . . . in the sense that you have created the atmosphere for that child to become a criminal," said Senghor, explaining that he was referring to the young men arrested as "children."
Surveillance of Muslims has sparked controversy and a lawsuit. Critics say the activity has violated the constitutional rights of Muslims by gathering information and sending undercover operatives into mosques. The NYPD maintains the activity was done in line with a court settlement concerning police surveillance and is guided by legitimate law enforcement leads or material in the public domain.
Senghor said the NYPD should reach out to Islamic leaders for assistance.
"Some of the imans and some of us in the centers, we will identify faster, the potential trouble maker," he said. "We will help the department."NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said the department wants to work with the city's Islamic community.
"We obviously more than welcome, we look for support in that area," Browne said. "But you have to realize terrorists are not confiding their plans among the overwhelming law-abiding Muslim community, so it some times requires police to get close to individual terror suspects."
Tahir Kukiqi, an Albanian immigrant from Kosovo, who is active in a Staten Island mosque, said after the conference that the Muslim community has been partnering with the NYPD for years.
He agreed that gathering intelligence is vital.