NYPD Lied About Islamophobic Third Jihad

I recently wrote about how the NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg were betraying public trust in their profiling of Muslims. Now, the New York Times is reporting that not only is the NYPD illegally spying on Muslims, but they’re using a discredited Islamophobic film to train their officers. These activities continue to demonstrate several structural issues in the NYPD and their treatment of “minority” communities in NY—names like Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo are still on the lips of New Yorkers, decades after their victimization. Of course, since the city is all “minority,” it means that for the NYPD all New Yorkers are suspect. Mayor Bloomberg’s actions and inactions make him complicit in the actions of the police.

Over at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates continues to document police profiling of African Americans, and now Muslims. Essentially, the NYPD is getting further militarized, arrogating powers normally given to the FBI and the CIA. They’re even working with the CIA, in a move that barely skirts the law preventing the CIA from carrying out domestic spying operations. In fact, what the NYPD has been doing seems to be done without the necessary legal approval from the CIA.

The NYPD screening of Islamophobic ‘documentary’ Third Jihad shows just how disconnected the official police structure is from the communities they are supposed to protect and serve. The department’s counterterrorism unit has been valorized as the best in the nation, an assessment I once agreed with, as they created real community partnerships. In a very short time they’ve burned that goodwill and trust. There’s a legacy of targeting African Americans that must be overcome. And while relations with other communities have improvied, the NYPD has shown that it can only be civil in order to find new ways to violate the rights of citizens.

Aside from the deep, structural racism and the collusion with the CIA to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of federal and local laws, they relish in lying to the public. In the face of months of AP reports that the NYPD has been engaged in spying, they deny it, simply stating that AP is wrong, offering no proof of their innocence or rebuttals.

Then their claim was that Third Jihad was only shown a couple of times and that Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s appearance in the film was not intentional, but was recycled footage. But now the Brennan Center at NYU discovered that it was on permanent loop during trainings, actively shown to over 1300 police officers—or about the size of one graduating class from the police academy—and that Kelly sat for a 90 minute interview expressly for the film. And we’re supposed to believe that police force, in part of it’s counterterrorism training, used a film from a DHS contractor that they didn’t vet, and that they didn’t know who the contractor was.

Imagine this scenario: A man walks into a building in NYC. No one knows who he is. No one asks his name. He has a package. He says eat it, you’ll like it. Everybody eats it. It’s not very likely, but this is exactly the scenario the NYPD wants us to believe. The only thing I can believe about the story is that they are lying.

Mayor Bloomberg may be angry about the fact that the movie was shown, but that only means one of two things: he knew, and realizes it’s a political liablity, or the NYPD has been lying to Bloomberg as well. Neither bodes well for the city. The Mayor either enabled a culture of hate at the NYPD, or the NYPD lied with impunity to the Mayor.

The New York Times called on Kelly to apologize, which he did. Yet his apology is actually the most disgusting thing to come out of his mouth on the whole issue. He apologized that people found it “inflammatory” and “inappropriate,” especially if they were Muslim. There is no sense that the film was inflammatory and inappropriate. Nor does he apologize for appearing in a film that demonizes people based on their religion. These are people he is supposedly trying to create partnerships with, people his department are supposed to serve and protect. Nor does he apologize for the constant lying to the public, and the potential lies to his boss, Mayor Bloomberg.

Many of us speculated that the AP started their reporting outside of NY because the NYPD is too politically powerful for the locals, and that Ray Kelly was pulling a J. Edgar Hoover. Now that the New York Times is running with departmental misconduct, it’s time for the Mayor to show he’s still a man of the people. He is by far the best Mayor we’ve had on transportation because he takes the subway. Now it’s time for him to show he can be the best Mayor we’ve had for law enforcement, and recognize the daily ways in which communities are victimized by the police.

Instead of letting the NYPD take advice from unnamed, unaccountable DHS contractors, partner with experts. NYC has no shortage of top-notch universities, non-profits, and foundations who work on issues of religion, civil rights, and counter-terrorism. Bloomberg managed to bring Stanford to NY, but doesn’t seem to realize that they have a great Islamic Studies program as well. He needs to hold people accountable and responsible for what is happening. Not a lowly sergeant who is being used as a scapegoat. There were big lies told in this story. It’s not incompetence, it’s willful deception. 

hrashid@mac.com'

Hussein Rashid is a native New Yorker and Proud Muslim. Currently an instructor at the Center for Spiritual Inquiry at Park Avenue Christian Church and based at Hofstra University, he is deeply committed to interfaith work and is passionate about teaching. He believes we need to start talking more intelligently about Islam specifically, and religion generally.