Fri., February 21, 2014 10:00am (EST)

Judge Tosses Suit Alleging NYPD Illegally Spied On Muslims
By Scott Neuman
Updated: 2 months ago

Sheikh Reda Shata stands in the men's prayer room at his mosque, The Islamic Center of Monmouth County, in Middletown, N.J., in Oct. 2011. From 2002 onward, Muslims in New Jersey allege police routinely monitored their comings and goings as part of a surveillance program.
Sheikh Reda Shata stands in the men's prayer room at his mosque, The Islamic Center of Monmouth County, in Middletown, N.J., in Oct. 2011. From 2002 onward, Muslims in New Jersey allege police routinely monitored their comings and goings as part of a surveillance program.
A federal judge has ruled that New York City Police did not violate the rights of Muslims by putting New Jersey mosques under routine surveillance in an effort to prevent terrorism.

U.S. District Judge William Martini in Newark threw out a suit brought against the city's police department by eight Muslims living in the New Jersey community. They alleged that the surveillance program, which they said involved spying on mosques, restaurants and schools in the state since 2002, was unconstitutional because they were being targeted solely on the basis of their religion.

In his ruling, however, Martini wrote that: "The more likely explanation for the surveillance was to locate budding terrorist conspiracies."

"The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself," he wrote.

Martini concluded that plaintiffs were not hurt by the surveillance itself and that to the extent there may have been harm done, it was caused by a series of articles on the program published by The Associated Press.

The AP writes:

"Farhaj Hassan, a plaintiff in the case and a U.S. soldier who served in Iraq, said he was disappointed by the ruling."

"'I have dedicated my career to serving my country, and this just feels like a slap in the face - all because of the way I pray,' he said."

"The Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and the California-based civil rights organization Muslim Advocates, which represented the plaintiffs, also called the decision troubling."

"'In addition to willfully ignoring the harm that our innocent clients suffered from the NYPD's illegal spying program, by upholding the NYPD's blunderbuss Muslim surveillance practices, the court's decision gives legal sanction to the targeted discrimination of Muslims anywhere and everywhere in this country, without limitation, for no other reason than their religion,' CCR Legal Director Baher Azmy said."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.