Kelly meets with Muslim leaders to talk surveillance

March 6, 2012 4:56:47 PM PST
Muslim leaders from around the city met with Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly on Tuesday, expressing their concerns with reports that the department was secretly monitoring Muslims, and offering suggestions on how to ensure the police and Muslim communities work together to combat terrorism.

Mohammed Razvi of the Council of Peoples Organization in Brooklyn said he came because people in his community have voiced concerns, but he feels reassured by the department and said Kelly's message was clear: "Let's move forward together." He said the commissioner was planning to hold more meetings, go out to more mosques and keep the discussion going - as Kelly has been doing all along.

"They're saying they're upset about it, and that is why we're here," he said of his community. "To discuss what are the next steps. Let's take this opportunity and move forward. Let's sit down at the table and figure out a way to make sure the community is comfortable and we are safe, collectively we're going to be able to keep our community safe."

With more than 70 Muslim groups in the area, the debate was polarizing. The six leaders gathered at police headquarters for more than an hour, but at least two others invited refused to attend because they objected in part to how the meeting was set up. As a result, they and other organizations sent a joint letter to city officials, saying the department ignored people who should have been invited. The letter called for a town hall-style meeting with city officials and Muslims from around the five boroughs.

"In a cynical demonstration of disregard for proper process, the NYPD invited only two community representatives who have been critical of NYPD policies," the letter said, signed by Fahd Ahmed of Desis Rising Up & Moving, and submitted on behalf of the Islamic Leadership Council and Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition.

Razvi said those who refused to attend the meeting were only hurting the community.

The meeting follows a series of Associated Press articles detailing the police department's secret surveillance of mosques, Muslim-owned businesses and college campuses across the Northeast since Muslim extremists attacked the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, killing thousands of people.

Sheikh Moussa Drammeh, the founder of the Islamic Leadership School in the Bronx, said they spoke candidly about problems facing Muslims, and said the commissioner was receptive. "We were not there kissing Ray Kelly's forehead," he said. "We voiced our opinions."

Drammeh praised Kelly as a true leader, and was appreciative of the department's work, saying he understood why the department was monitoring some Muslim groups.

"It was very honorable, we met with him to find ways in which to protect our lives," he said.

The police department had no comment on the meeting. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said the department is doing everything it can - within the law - to keep the city safe from terrorists.

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