The lawsuit argues the NYPD's Muslim Surveillance Program violates the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion.
“The NYPD is supposed to protect New Yorkers, but it is instead stigmatizing hundreds of thousands of community members as disloyal and inherently dangerous simply because of their religion,” NYCLU legal director Arthur Eisenberg said in a statement. "This program not only violates our Constitution and our values as Americans and New Yorkers, but it promotes ignorance and prejudice.”
But the city Law Department defended the police tactic.
"The NYPD's strategic approach to combating terrorism is legal, appropriate and designed to keep our city safe," said Celeste Koeleveld, a lawyer for the city who deals primarily with public safety issues. "The NYPD recognizes the critical importance of 'on-the-ground' research, as police need to be informed about where a terrorist may go while planning or what they may do after an attack, as the Boston Marathon bombing proved. Cities cannot play catch-up in gathering intelligence about a terrorist threat."
Plaintiff Asad Dandia, a 20-year-old Brooklyn resident, said someone who he later learned was an NYPD informant infiltrated the community service nonprofit he founded, Muslims Giving Back, ate dinner at his home and even spent the night. After the informant revealed himself, Dandia's group had difficulty attracting new members.
"Islam requires giving back to the community that you have been given by God," said in the NYCLU statement. "I’ve done nothing wrong and yet I am unable to practice Islam fully because of what the Police Department did to me.”