NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – More than a dozen Muslim clerics and community figures skipped Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s annual interfaith breakfast which is aimed at bringing people together.
In a letter to the mayor, the group said the rights of Muslims are being “flagrantly violated ” and have boycotted the event to protest what they see as excessive and illegal surveillance of Muslims by the NYPD.
“We strongly value the civic and interfaith relationships celebrated at this event,” the leaders of the Muslim groups wrote. “However, this year we have decided to respectfully decline your invitation.”
1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports
While the leaders praise Bloomberg for his defense of the Islamic cultural center located near the World Trade Center site, they take issue with the NYPD sending undercover officers into mosques, Muslim neighborhoods and groups in an effort to thwart terror plots. The practice was disclosed as part of an Associated Press investigation.
Despite the boycott, the breakfast went off without a hitch and Bloomberg didn’t directly address the protest.
He did however quote his father as telling him that “discrimination against anyone is discrimination against everyone.”
“We have to keep our guard up, but if we don’t work together we won’t have our own freedoms,” he added.
Prior to the breakfast, Bloomberg defended police on his weekly radio show Friday morning, saying the NYPD doesn’t target any ethnic group.
“It’s like saying you are going after people that are my height with brown hair. If a perp is described that way in the neighborhood, you look at everybody in the neighborhood that’s got brown hair, my height, you stop them,” he said.
Bloomberg said all ethnic groups contribute to the city and none of them are targeted.
“The city’s police department has worked very hard to bring crime down and prevent terrorism,” Bloomberg had said. “We’ve done it in a ways that is consistent with making sure that we obey the law and don’t target anybody.”
He and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly insist the counter terrorism programs are legal.
“Contrary to assertions, the NYPD lawfully follows leads in terrorist-related investigations and does not engage in the kind of wholesale spying on communities that was falsely alleged,” police spokesman Paul Browne said in an email Thursday.
Imam Shamsi Ali of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York told 1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks that he doesn’t agree with the boycott.
“Michael Bloobmerg is not a perfect mayor, certainly, but he’s done a lot for the community and I think we need to appreciate [that],” he said.
The Imam said he has no evidence of authorities spying on the Muslim community but he looks forward to a meeting with Kelly.
More than 350 people attended the breakfast which was held at the New York Public Library.