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Arrest Highlights How Police Surveil Muslim Immigrant Communities

This summary about New York Police Department and its relationship with Muslim immigrant communities was featured in Documented’s Early Arrival newsletter. You can subscribe to receive it in your inbox three times per week here.

It’s June 2021, and Ishtiaq Ahmed is volunteering at the Makki Masjid Muslim Community Center in Brooklyn for Jummah prayers — a busy weekly gathering. 

It’s Ahmed’s responsibility to limit the number of worshippers in each prayer room to adhere to social distancing guidelines. So Ahmed allows police liaison Raja Gul, NYPD Inspector Richie Taylor, and another elderly Muslim man into the main prayer space of the mosque. He then sticks out his hand, blocking the remaining community members and an NYPD community affairs officer from entering.

It’s clear from CCTV videos that there is no physical interaction between Ahmed and any of the community members. 

This would be one of the last times NYPD officers would be allowed in the mosque; previously, the NYPD regularly surveilled the mosque as part of a neighborhood policing initiative. 

Three weeks later, again during busy Jummah prayers, three police officers entered the mosque and arrested Ahmed for allegedly physically attacking one of the community members who accompanied the officers into the mosque. 

Ahmed says the allegations destroyed his life and maintains his innocence. He claims law enforcement officials fabricated the claims, and he never would he have imagined the police would do such in the U.S. 

Conflicting evidence: An NYPD officer who was present during the entire interaction that June day signed the police report alleging that Ahmed committed the assault. But the alleged victim of assault, a community member who Ahmed stopped from entering the prayer room, has said he did not sign any documents related to a police report and cannot read or write in English.

Rebecca Chowdury, an investigative journalist, who reports today’s story on Documented, writes that Ahmed’s arrest and ensuing legal battle capture how the police surveillance of Muslim communities continues to wreak havoc on the lives of working-class immigrants like Ahmed.

Since Ahmed’s arrest, the Muslim community decided NYPD officers would no longer be allowed in the mosque.

Community policing’s overwhelming impact: Critics argue that the community policing initiative is a continuation of surveillance practices, and it negatively impacts the mental health of the Muslim community. 

Fahd Ahmed, executive director of Desis Rising Up and Moving, which organizes working-class South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities, tells our reporter that “community liaisons [with the NYPD] pursue the same function of gathering information for police operations and then that information is weaponized against communities.”

Read the full report exclusively on Documented.

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