NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Hundreds of Muslims prayed in a Lower Manhattan park and marched to NYPD headquarters Friday to protest a decade of police infiltrating mosques and spying on Muslim neighborhoods.

Bundled in winter clothes, men and women knelt as the call to prayer echoed off the cold stone of government buildings.

“Being Muslim does not negate our nationality,” Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid told the crowd of about 500 gathered in Foley Square, not far from City Hall and local courthouses. “We are unapologetically Muslim and uncompromisingly American.”

The demonstration was smaller and more subdued than the Occupy Wall Street protests that led to clashes with police and made headlines worldwide. Police wore windbreakers, not riot gear, and protesters called for improved relations with police.

“We want for you to respect us,” Abdur-Rashid said, “and we will respect you.”

It was the first organized opposition to the NYPD’s intelligence tactics since an Associated Press investigation revealed widespread spying programs that documented every aspect of Muslim life in New York. Police infiltrated mosques and student groups. Plainclothes officers catalogued Middle Eastern restaurants and their clientele. Analysts built databases on Arab cab drivers and monitored Muslims who changed their names.

“Had this been happening to any other religious group, all of America would be outraged,” said Daoud Ibraheem, 73, a retired graphic artist from Brooklyn.

Following the prayer service, the Muslims — joined by about 50 Occupy Wall Street demonstrators — crowded the sidewalk for the short walk to the large police headquarters building known as One Police Plaza. They stayed only briefly, chanting for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s ouster, before returning to Foley Square.

Protesters carried signs that said “NYPD Watches Us. Who Watches NYPD?” A dozen or so uniformed police officers monitored the demonstration and followed the march, but there were no clashes between protesters and police

At an unrelated news conference Friday, Kelly told reporters that he “categorically denied” the idea that the NYPD was spying.

Kelly and his intelligence chief, David Cohen, have transformed the NYPD into one of the nation’s most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies. It operates far outside the city borders and its manpower and budget give it capabilities that even the federal government does not have. NYPD analysts were among the first to study the thorny question of how people are radicalized.

Kelly said his officers only follow leads and do not simply trawl neighborhoods.

“We do what we believe necessary to protect this city, pursuant to the law,” Kelly said. “We have a battery of very experienced, well-trained lawyers that advise us on all of our tactics and operations.”

Outside the department, however, there is little oversight of the Intelligence Division and it’s roughly $60 million budget. The City Council is not told about all the department’s secret operations and city auditors have not scrutinized the unit since it was transformed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Some of its tactics, such as monitoring name changes, would not be allowed by the FBI because of civil liberties concerns.

Many of the NYPD programs were built with the help of the CIA as part of an unusually close collaboration that is now the subject of an internal CIA investigation.

“America is supposed to be a country that protects your freedoms,” said Yusuf Ali Muhammed, a protester from the Bronx who wore an embroidered skullcap and a white Middle Eastern robe. “But America has become a hypocritical government, a government that thinks it can do anything it wants with nobody objecting.”

Abdur-Rashid, of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, said it was no secret that police have been watching mosques for years. But monitoring everything from Islamic schools to restaurants, as shown in NYPD documents, was unacceptable, he said.

“We’re peaceful people,” said Dalia Nazzal, 18, a freshman at the City University of New York, a target of police infiltration. “We don’t deserve to be under surveillance.”

Mohamed Mahmoud, 40, the owner of a Brooklyn printing shop, said he knew several people who had been approached by NYPD officers trying to recruit them as informants. Documents obtained by the AP also show that police monitored even those Muslims who decried terrorism and partnered with the government to prevent violence.

“They think that all Muslims are criminals, and it’s not right,” Mahmoud said.

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(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (13)
  1. Jones says:

    Muslims in the West deserve every bit of scrutiny and surveillance they come under.

    People living as Muslims in the West are making an anti-social choice. Muslims in the West have the freedom and safety to leave Islam. Here, Muslims are exposed to other religious choices, including having no religion if they so wish.

    Muslims living here are also exposed to information about the cruelty of Islam – discussion that is suppressed in the Islamic world.

    To live here, and remain Muslim, in the face of knowledge and options, only increases the moral culpability of individual Muslims.

  2. Meme Meyagi says:

    what is done about 7 million mooslime terrorists living in usa?

  3. sugar231 says:

    Sure….they will respect you if you respect them…..NOT!!

  4. pugphan says:

    Yo youse muses, prophets prophecy! So…what were your prophets prophecies?
    They also perform divine works, so what were Mohan’s? They also work miracles
    to witness the wonders of God. What were Mohan’s miracales? Also, God said one
    man, one woman. But your bogus prophet said you could have as many wives as
    you could handle. Don’t you think it’s time you peeps woke up?

  5. Amtracmarine says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with what’s going on. Forget about the WTC,there have been too many plots discovered and stopped to count since then. Maybe we should be watching at the Knights Of Columbus??

  6. Hassan al-Opeesha says:

    By all means, NYPD, concentrate your energies on Quakers. THEY’RE the problem.

  7. jordan says:

    its been 10 years so get over it. what about all the innocent iraqis and Afghanistan that are being killed for no reason. what about those killed by soliders known as sport killing in Afghanistan.

    1. Amtracmarine says:

      Please stop the BS Jordan. Muslims are killing more Muslims in the Middle East
      than all the coalition troops combined. Everyday a bomb goes off killing innocent Muslim civilans. Why don’t you bit*h about that??

    2. Get over it? says:

      Yeah, we’re getting over it a little more every day, when we blow your buddies to bits and our guys throw bacon bits on the corpses and leave them facing away from Mecca.

  8. PitaBread22 says:

    What about the 3,000 killed in the Towers?

    Where is there respect?

    1. jordan says:

      ts been 10 years so get over it. what about all the innocent iraqis and Afghanistan that are being killed for no reason. what about those killed by soliders known as sport killing in Afghanistan.

    2. Deema Azizi says:

      What about them? Muslims were killed on that day too. Muslim firefighters and police officers risked their lives on that day. What does peaceful Muslims demanding their rights as American citizens have to do with 9/11?

      1. pyatt says:

        Peaceful? Muslim?

        Notice how I didn’t type them in the same sentence. Now go eat some pork chops.

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