NEW YORK CITY — Last Thursday, a group of Muslim owned-businesses, mosques, individuals, and student groups reached a settlement with the New York Police Department (NYPD) in a federal lawsuit challenging the discriminatory surveillance of American Muslims in New Jersey.
Filed in 2012 in federal court in New Jersey, in Hassan v. City of New York was the first lawsuit brought on behalf of American Muslims unlawfully surveilled under the NYPD’s program. The plaintiffs are represented by Muslim Advocates, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Gibbons P.C.
The NYPD has agreed to may more than $1 million in legal fees and damages.
Under the surveillance program, the NYPD spied on at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools and two Muslim Student Associations in New Jersey. The monitoring included video surveillance, photographing license plates, community mapping and infiltration by undercover officers and informants at places of worship, student associations and businesses.
Internal NYPD documents, including a list of 28 “ancestries of interest”, revealed that the NYPD used racial and ethnic backgrounds as proxies to identify and target adherents to Islam. By its own admission, the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslims failed to produce a single lead.
Under the terms of the settlement, the NYPD has confirmed it will reform its practices by agreeing not to engage in surveillance on the basis of religion or ethnicity, implement a policy guide that will govern the Intelligence Bureau’s activities and pay businesses and mosques damages for income lost as a result of being unfairly targeted.
Hassan was initially filed by Muslim Advocates and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Gibbons, P.C. later joined as co-counsel. It was the first case to challenge the NYPD’s Muslim spying program.