venerdì 30 dicembre 2011
Muslims Upset by NYPD to Boycott Mayor's Breakfast
30 Dicembre 2011
Muslim leaders intent on showing Mayor Michael Bloomberg that they have no appetite for his support of the police department's efforts to gather intelligence on their neighborhoods are poised to make an impression by their absence at his annual interfaith breakfast Friday.
A letter they composed made a controversy out of a normally sedate end-of-the-year meeting. In all, 15 Muslim clerics and community figures say they won't show up to protest the surveillance program first revealed in a series of Associated Press articles.
But one man who signed the letter, Rabbi Michael Weisser, said he will attend the breakfast after friends in the Muslim community urged him to attend and engage the mayor in conversation about the dispute.
The breakfast is traditionally held at the historic New York Public Library building on 42nd Street and has long served to showcase the city's diversity during overlapping winter holidays.
Weisser, who is one of seven people who will give invocations at the gathering, said he will not address it in his remarks to the group because he had already submitted his text to the mayor's office before taking sides in the dispute. Still, he said he saw parallels to what Jews have faced.
"From a Jewish perspective, it reminded me of things that were going on in the 1930s in Germany. We don't need that in America," he said. "The Muslim community is targeted. It's stereotyped. When people think of terrorism, they immediately think Muslim."
He said he had no problem with the police department following leads, but objected to the sense that the department is targeting Muslim organizations because they are Muslim.
"We can't be painting a whole group of people with the same broad brush," he said.
Bloomberg's office has said it expects about two dozen Muslim leaders to attend the breakfast.
"You're going to see a big turnout tomorrow, and it's nice that all faiths can get together," the mayor said Thursday. Boycott participants "are going to miss a chance to have a great breakfast."
Among those disagreeing with the boycott is Imam Shamsi Ali of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York. "I believe that engagement is more important. I think everyone disagrees with the way the NYPD is penetrating the community, but I think generalizing everything else as bad is not appropriate," he said. "The mayor's not perfect, but there are many things about him we need to appreciate. And I think working with him is a way of appreciation."
Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have insisted their counterterrorism programs are legal.
"Contrary to assertions, the NYPD lawfully follows leads in terrorist-related investigations and does not engage in the kind of wholesale spying on communities that was falsely alleged," police spokesman Paul Browne said in an email Thursday.
Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, president of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York, a group of 35 clerics and their congregations, said those who won't attend don't feel comfortable "going to have coffee and doughnuts with the mayor knowing that this civil liberties crisis that's affecting all New Yorkers is not going to be addressed."(CHRIS HAWLEY Associated Press)