[JURIST] A Muslim rights group filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey [official website] on Wednesday seeking to end the New York Police Department (NYPD) [official website] controversial surveillance program, which allegedly targets individuals based on religious affiliation. The complaint, filed by the Muslim Advocates [advocacy website] alleges that “the NYPD Program is founded upon a false and constitutionally impermissible premise: that Muslim religious identity is a legitimate criterion for selection of law-enforcement surveillance targets.” The Muslim Advocates allege that the NYPD has engaged in surveillance of Muslim schools, including kindergarten and elementary schools, as well as entire communities, including the Muslim community in Newark, New Jersey. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief barring the NYPD from continuing surveillance operations based solely on religion.
The NYPD has come under scrutiny recently for alleged discriminatory surveillance. JURIST guest columnist Samar Warsi in May questioned [JURIST comment] the NYPD policies stating: “It is vital to be cautious when government officials use glittering generalities such as ‘national security’ and ‘counterterrorism’ to legitimize acts and policies in clear contravention of basic constitutional guarantees.” In May, New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa concluded that the NYPD’s surveillance program did not violate the Constitution [AP report]. Chiesa had launched an investigation into the program after a series of AP articles sparked outrage in New Jersey in February. In March, NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly [official profile] adamantly denied [speech; press release] that the surveillance programs were unconstitutional.