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Arrest Highlights How Police Surveil Muslim Immigrant Communities

Fisayo Okare

Aug 28, 2022

Makki Masjid on Coney Island Avenue in Midwood. Photo: Scott Heins for Documented

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.


New York

Three new NY laws to strengthen immigrant worker’s rights:
They include a law that allows 56 hours of sick leave to workers; one that ensures certain workers get predictable schedules; and a Delivery Workers’ Rights law. — BK Reader

NYC officials say Texas is giving migrants barcode bracelets to wear before transporting them: City officials said they hadn’t seen the bracelets on newly arrived migrants until last Wednesday, when they saw nearly all the migrants who arrived were wearing them. — ABC7NY

A Venezuelan family’s harrowing 10-country journey to New York City: Upon getting to the city, several shelters rejected them. Eventually, they settled in a Bushwick shelter. Now, the father still can’t work until after an October 2023 court date. — CNN

After media-frenzied welcome, asylum seekers endure hardships in shelters: A flood of immigrants who’ve recently arrived in NYC must now seek medical care, keep tabs on their ongoing immigration cases and reunite with family members. — City Limits

Around the U.S. 

How deporting parents costs American children: Across the U.S., hundreds of thousands of American families are coping with anguish compounded by steep financial decline after a spouse’s or parent’s deportation. — The Marshall Project

Nebraska commerce leader says improvement needed in immigration to help fill jobs: The president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry said there are between 52,000 and 80,000 unfilled jobs in Nebraska, and asked if immigration system changes could help fill them. — Nebraska Public Media

Washington D.C.

Video confirms DHS agent stepped on worker’s neck during immigration raid: The video is part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of Latino plant workers against federal agents and the U.S. government after the 2018 raid. — Tennessee Lookout

Fisayo Okare

Fisayo writes Documented’s "Early Arrival" newsletter and "Our City" column. She is an MSc. graduate of Columbia Journalism School, New York, and earned her BSc. degree in Mass Comm. from Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos.




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