Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan officials say at least seven people have been killed in protests around the country against the burning of Qurans at a U.S. air base.
The violence Friday raised the total number of people killed in the days of violence to 20.
The governor’s office in western Herat province said six died in three incidents there. Three people were killed when a truck full of ammunition exploded after protesters set it ablaze. Three others died in two separate incidents when armed men among the protesters exchanged gunfire with security forces.
Officials said another protester died when Afghan security forces fired in the air to prevent demonstrators from storming a Hungarian base in the north.
The New York Police Department targeted Muslim mosques with tactics normally reserved for criminal organizations, according to newly obtained police documents that showed police collecting the license plates of worshippers, monitoring them on surveillance cameras and cataloging sermons through a network of informants.
The documents, obtained by The Associated Press, have come to light as the NYPD fends off criticism of its monitoring of Muslim student groups and its cataloging of mosques and Muslim businesses in nearby Newark, N.J. The NYPD’s spokesman, Paul Browne, forcefully defended the legality of those efforts Thursday, telling reporters that its officers may go wherever the public goes and collect intelligence, even outside city limits.
The new documents, prepared for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, show how the NYPD’s roster of paid informants monitored conversations and sermons inside mosques. The records offer the first glimpse of what those informants, known informally as “mosque crawlers,” gleaned from inside the houses of worship.
For instance, when a Danish newspaper published inflammatory cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in September 2005, Muslim communities around the world erupted in outrage. Violent mobs took to the streets in the Middle East. A Somali man even broke into the cartoonist’s house in Denmark with an ax.
In New York, thousands of miles away, it was a different story. Muslim leaders preached peace and urged people to protest lawfully. Write letters to politicians, they said. Some advocated boycotting Danish products, burning flags and holding rallies.
All of that was permissible under law and protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. All was reported to the NYPD by its mosque crawlers and made its way into police files for Kelly.
“Imam Shamsi Ali brought up the topic of the cartoon, condemning them. He announced a rally that was to take place on Sunday (02/05/06) near the United Nations. He asked that everyone to attend if possible and reminded everyone to keep their poise if they can make it,” one report read.
At the Muslim Center of New York in Queens, the report said, “Mohammad Tariq Sherwani led the prayer service and urged those in attendance to participate in a demonstration at the United Nations on Sunday.”
When one Muslim leader suggested planning a demonstration, one of the people involved in the discussion about how to get a permit was, in fact, working for the NYPD.
“It seems horrible to me that the NYPD is treating an entire religious community as potential terrorists,” said civil rights lawyer Jethro Eisenstein, who reviewed some of the documents and is involved in a decades-old class-action lawsuit against the police department for spying on protesters and political dissidents.
The lawsuit is known as the Handschu case, and a court order in that case governs how the NYPD may collect intelligence.
Eisenstein said the documents prove the NYPD has violated those rules.
“This is a flat-out violation,” Eisenstein said. “This is a smoking gun.”
Browne, the NYPD spokesman, did not discuss specific investigations Thursday but told reporters that, because of the Handschu case, the NYPD operates under stricter rules than any other department in the country. He said police do not violate those rules.
His statements were intended to calm a controversy over a 2007 operation in which the NYPD mapped and photographed all of Newark’s mosques and eavesdropped on Muslim businesses. Newark Mayor Cory Booker said he was never told about the surveillance, which he said offended him.
Booker and his police director accused the NYPD of misleading them by not revealing exactly what they were doing. Had they known, they said it never would have been permitted. But Browne said Newark police were told before and after the operation and knew exactly what it entailed.
Kelly, the police commissioner, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have been emphatic that police only follow legitimate leads of criminal activity and do not conduct preventive surveillance in ethnic communities.
Former and current law enforcement officials either involved in or with direct knowledge of these programs say they did not follow leads. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the secret programs. But the documents support their claims.
The effort highlights one of the most difficult aspects of policing in the age of terrorism. Solving crimes isn’t enough; police are expected to identify would-be terrorists and move in before they can attack.
There are no universally agreed upon warning signs for terrorism. Terrorists have used Internet cafes, stayed in hostels, worked out at gyms, visited travel agencies, attended student groups and prayed at mosques. So the NYPD monitored those areas. In doing so, they monitored many innocent people as they went about their daily lives.
Using plainclothes officers from the squad known as the Demographics Unit, police swept Muslim neighborhoods and catalogued the location of mosques. The ethnic makeup of each congregation was logged as police fanned out across the city and outside their jurisdiction, into suburban Long Island and areas of New Jersey.
“African American, Arab, Pakistani,” police wrote beneath the photo of one mosque in Newark.
Investigators looked at mosques as the center of Muslim life. All their connections had to be known.
David Cohen, the NYPD’s top intelligence officer, wanted a source inside every mosque within a 250-mile radius of New York, current and former officials said. Though the officials said they never managed to reach that goal, documents show the NYPD successfully placed informants or undercovers – sometimes both – into mosques from Westchester County, N.Y., to New Jersey.
The NYPD used these sources to get a sense of the sentiment of worshippers whenever an event generated headlines. The goal, former officials said, was to alert police to potential problems before they bubbled up.
Even when it was clear there were no links to terrorism, the mosque informants gave the NYPD the ability to “take the pulse” of the community, as Cohen and other managers put it.
When New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor were killed on Oct. 11, 2006, when their small plane crashed into a Manhattan high-rise apartment, fighter planes were scrambled. Within hours the FBI and Homeland Security Department said it was an accident. Terrorism was ruled out.
Yet for days after the event, the NYPD’s mosque crawlers reported to police about what they heard at sermons and among worshippers.
At the Brooklyn Islamic Center, a confidential informant “noted chatter among the regulars expressing relief and thanks to God that the crash was only an accident and not an act of terrorism,” one report reads.
“The worshippers made remarks to the effect that `it better be an accident; we don’t need any more heat,'” an undercover officer reported from the Al-Tawheed Islamic Center in Jersey City, N.J.
In some instances, the NYPD put cameras on light poles and trained them on mosques, documents show. Because the cameras were in public space, police didn’t need a warrant to conduct the surveillance.
Police also wrote down the license plates of cars in mosque parking lots, documents show. In some instances, police in unmarked cars outfitted with electronic license plate readers would drive down the street and record the plates of everyone parked near the mosque, former officials recalled.
“They’re viewing Muslims like they’re crazy. They’re terrorists. They all must be fanatics,” said Abdul Akbar Mohammed, the imam for the past eight years at the Masjid Imam Ali K. Muslim in Newark. “That’s not right.”
The anti-Muslim base in America is no stranger to promoting misinformation about Islam, Muslims and even President Obama. During Franklin Graham’s Feb. 21 “Morning Joe” appearance, nothing changed.
Graham reiterated the oft-repeated claim that Muslims are persecuting Christians because “Under shariah law, a Muslim can take a Christian’s property without restriction and subject Christian women against their will.” Mind you, no evidence or references are offered to support such a claim, but for those who prefer clear evidence to the contrary, here it is: The Quran is the first and only religious scripture that commands its adherents — Muslims — to protect churches, synagogues and temples from attack and to do so in preference to protecting mosques (22:40-41). Accordingly, in a letter to St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai, Prophet Muhammad gave his written oath that Muslims must protect Christian churches and properties until the end of time. He added that should anyone take anything belonging to a Christian, he would break his covenant with God and Prophet Muhammad. Under sharia (Islamic law), taking another’s property — regardless of the other person’s faith — is theft, a violation of the other’s rights and honor, and severely punishable.
Likewise, any belief that sharia “allows” Muslim men to subject women against their will — Christian or not — is baseless. The Quran explicitly declares, “O ye who believe! It is not lawful for you to inherit women against their will…” (4:20). The Quran protects all women, regardless of faith. Those Muslims who persecute Christians and harm women are to be categorically condemned. Those so-called Muslims perform these atrocious acts in spite of Islam, not because of it.
Graham also alleged that the “Muslim world considers Obama a son of Islam because his father, grandfather and great grandfathers were Muslim — that’s sharia — that’s just the way it is.” Ignoring for the moment how one would know what the Muslim world is thinking, such an assertion is, again, patently false. Islam — like Christianity — rejects the notion of inherited faith, requiring Muslims to actively affirm their faith by reciting theShahadah if they claim to be Muslim. The Shahadah, which declares, “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger,” serves a role for Muslims similar to that of baptism for Christians. Whatever the Muslim world thinks, sharia is clear: a person is a Muslim if he or she claims to be, and not a Muslim if he does not claim to be. President Obama has been forced — most unfortunately — more than any President in American history to perpetually reaffirm his Christian faith and belief in Jesus as his Savior. For some, however, this is just not enough. Perhaps in misrepresenting President Obama’s faith, critics glossed over Matthew 7:1, “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
Frankly speaking, such critics should stop speaking on anything related to Islam, others’ faith, or foreign policy if they are not willing to support their assertions with facts and objective reasoning. Such discrimination against Muslims and those not “Christian enough” is frighteningly similar to evangelist Muslim clerics who express intense bigotry to Christians and those not “Muslim enough.” Instead, as American Muslims, we invite people of all faiths — and certainly evangelical Christians — to open and candid dialogues based on pluralism and conflict resolution. In fact, when Christians from Najran traveled to Mecca to see about Prophet Muhammad’s claim, this is exactly what history records. The Christian travelers became Prophet Muhammad’s honored guests, even offering their worship services — unhindered — in his personal mosque at his invitation.
Enough of misinformation and discrimination. Muslims and Christians must actively work together to achieve what both peoples want — peace. As the Quran says, “Surely, those who have believed, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians — whoso believes in God and the Last Day and does good deeds, on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve.” As Muslims who believe in the messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, we believe peace means developing a bond between man and the Creator, and letting the judgment be His and His alone.