The NYPD's practice of surveilling entire Muslim communities -- including classifying whole mosques as terrorist organizations in order to enable greater spying powers -- appears straightforwardly unconstitutional. Ordinary worshipping Muslims were targeted because of their ethnicity and religion -- the very meaning of discrimination.
However, a federal judge in New Jersey ruled on Thursday that the NYPD's spying on Muslims has been legal. The ruling -- the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by eight New Jersey Muslims -- was in itself troubling. U.S. District Judge William Martini noted, "The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself." Martini's statement makes explicit that, if the pretext of counterterrorism is available, protections against religious discrimination are null.
The Center for Constitutional Rights' legal director, Baher Azmy, offered a statement to this effect, decrying the ruling: "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."