Local
11:43 am
Mon February 20, 2012

NYPD monitored Muslim students across Northeast including UB

The New York City Police Department has been conducting  surveillance of Muslim students across the Northeast -- including some students at the University at Buffalo.   The NYPD has checked Websites run by Muslim student groups at 16-colleges in the Northeast.

Dr. Khalid Qazi is president of the Muslim Affairs Council of Western New York.  He tells WBFO News more than a month ago, his group learned of the monitoring of students.  

This past Sunday an Associated Press story surfaced revealing that the New York City Police Department was conducting the surveillance and that police talked with local authorities about professors and some students at UB.

"This is very disconcerting," said Dr. Qazi.

Qazi said neither the UB Police Chief or the Muslim Student Association was aware of this surveillance.

"This was very distributing especially since we have been trying to work with law enforcement," said Qazi. 
"We start wondering what happens to our civil rights and civil liberties."

Tahmina Rehman is also with the local Muslim community in Buffalo.  She is concerned that they are losing their freedoms.

"We left our country to come to this great county. We have a future, and we when we come down to a level where we can buy our actions, bring this country to that level, then for me, leaving my country back home, and adopt this country as my own country means nothing," said Rehman.

The Muslim Affairs Council is calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.   Qazi tells WBFO News he plans to discuss the surveillance issue with both state and federal officials. 

According to the AP story,  one female UB student was monitored for forwarding an email in November of 2006 that announced an upcoming Islamic conference in Toronto. 

UB issued a written statement saying the story was the first time it was aware of the surveillance.  UB officials were NOT contacted by the NYPD and did not provide any information to the New York City Police.  

You can read the Associated Press story and the University at Buffalo's full statement below:

NEW YORK (AP) - A review of documents obtained by The Associated Press finds that New York City police went far beyond the city limits in their Muslim surveillance programs.

Police checked websites run by Muslim student groups at 16 colleges in the Northeast, including Yale. They talked with local authorities about professors in Buffalo and even sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip. The agent recorded students' names and noted how many times they prayed. 

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne says arrests or convictions of former members of Muslim student associations made it "prudent to get a better handle on what was occurring at MSAs."

Critics see a violation of human rights and say that Muslim students just want the same freedoms everyone else has. The NYPD says it follows the same rules as the FBI but some activities go beyond what the FBI is allowed to do.

The University at Buffalo has released a statement in response to an Associated Press report indicating that the New York City police department (NYPD) monitored the website postings of Muslim students at UB and several other colleges and universities:

"This was the first time that the university learned of this matter. University at Buffalo officials were not contacted by NYPD, and the university did not provide any information to the NYPD.

UB does not conduct this kind of surveillance, and, if asked, UB would not voluntarily cooperate with such a request.

As a public university, UB strongly supports the values of freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of religion, and a reasonable expectation of privacy.

UB welcomes students, faculty and staff from a wide range of diverse backgrounds. The university is committed to ensuring equal employment, educational opportunity, and equal access to services, programs, and activities without regard to an individual's race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, gender, pregnancy, gender identity, sexual orientation, predisposing genetic characteristics, marital status, veteran status, military status, domestic violence victim status, or ex-offender status."