Muslims criticize Bloomberg veto of NYPD watchdog

Muslim-American civil rights groups are criticizing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for vetoing a bill on Tuesday (July 23) that would have created an independent inspector general to oversee the New York City Police Department.

The New York City Council passed the bill June 27 as a check against controversial NYPD policies that critics say violate the civil rights of Muslim and other minority New Yorkers. Reports that the NYPD spied on mosques, Muslim businesses, organizations and students began surfacing in 2011.

“The NYPD is out of control and discriminates against innocent Americans, and Mayor Bloomberg has let Americans down by allowing the NYPD to use discriminatory policies without any accountability,” said Glenn Katon, legal director for Muslim Advocates, a civil rights group based in San Francisco.

Critics say the surveillance program has caused many Muslims to stop going to Islamic institutions or speaking out in public, worried it could land them in legal troubles.

The bill would have made it easier to bring racial profiling lawsuits against the NYPD.

Muslim Americans hope the City Council, which passed the oversight bill with a veto-proof majority of 40 to 11, will be able to override the veto.

“Even though we wish he had supported the bill, this still gives us a chance to advocate and educate people about profiling, and how it’s counterproductive to good policing,” said Sadyia Khalique, a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ New York chapter. “This is bad not just for Muslims, but also blacks, Latinos, and other minorities.”

Bloomberg has been a paradox to many Muslims who welcomed his support when a proposal to build a mosque near Ground Zero came under vitriolic attacks. But they’ve been disappointed in his support for the surveillance program and opposition to creating school holidays on two major Muslim holidays.

Religion News Service, 25 July 2013