Dozens of Muslims gathered in front of New York Police Department headquarters Monday to express support for the department's anti-terror efforts.
Those efforts, which include monitoring of web sites and surveillance in and outside the city, have drawn fire from Islamist groups and civil libertarians since they were disclosed in a series of Associated Press reports.
"In no way do we want to be spied on," said Zuhdi Jasser, a founder of the American Islamic Leadership Forum, the group behind Monday's demonstration. "But this is not about spying. This is about monitoring and public programs."
The gathering attracted a wide range of people, from students to business owners and an imam from Queens.
U.S. Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, joined Monday's event, praising the NYPD for being pro-active. "It's the job of the police department not to pick up the bodies after the attack has been launched and carried out but to stop those attacks from happening."
In a statement, the group commended the NYPD for drawing a line between Islam as a religion, "and the highly politicized ideology of hatred, supremacy and violence characteristic of political Islam." In doing so, "the NYPD has displayed far greater courage in acknowledging and addressing the ideological factors that cause radicalization among Muslims, than have the majority of federal agencies explicitly tasked with defending our nation and its people."
That sentiment was shared last week in a New York Post column by physician Qanta Ahmed. The NYPD protects all Americans, including Muslims, by stopping radical Islamists whose actions attack freedom, she wrote.
"America's extraordinary freedoms afford us an ability to define our own expressions of Islam as Muslims in a way that no Muslim-majority nation secures for any Muslim anywhere today," Ahmed wrote. "We must preserve these values, and join the NYPD, in understanding the Islamist threat to these values."