NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A spokesman for a major Muslim organization is blasting the New York Police Department for spying on his community.

Police now admit keeping a close eye on Muslim college students all across the Northeast, including Rutgers University and Yale University.

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Detectives scanned Muslim student association websites, blogs and forums and monitored where students ate, shopped and worshiped.

Officials at both Rutgers and Yale said the school was not aware of the monitoring of Muslim students.

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“It’s very clear that this is not about police work this is about monitoring people based on  ideology,” Cyrus McGoldrick, of Council On American-Islamic Relations, said.

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“I just feel that this sort of stuff undermines all the good work that the Muslim student association does,” Aleela Khan said.

On Tuesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the practice of monitoring Muslim students insisting it was done to keep the country safe.

“Of course we’re going to look at anything that’s publicly available in the public domain,” Bloomberg said. “We have an obligation to do so.”

NYPD Spokesman Paul Browne said 12 people, arrested or convicted on terrorism charges in the U.S., were members of Muslim student groups.

He said surveillance was necessary “for the purposes of developing intelligence information to detect or prevent terrorism of other unlawful activities.”

Muslim student associations across New Jersey universities have signed a letter asking the attorney general of New York to investigate reports of secret surveillance of Muslim communities by the New York Police Department.

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