Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- New York City didn’t violate the rights of Muslims by conducting police surveillance of New Jersey mosques and businesses after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a U.S. judge ruled in dismissing a lawsuit.
Several Muslims, along with mosques, Muslim-owned businesses and a Rutgers University student group, sued the city in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, in June 2012, claiming the police department singled them out for their religious beliefs.
The suit followed a series of news reports that said the police department spied on mosques, businesses and worshipers in Newark and elsewhere in New Jersey. U.S. District Judge William J. Martini yesterday dismissed the suit, saying the plaintiffs didn’t show they were targeted “solely because of their religion.”
“The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself,” he wrote. “The motive for the program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but rather to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary, law-abiding Muslims.”
The plaintiffs included a U.S. soldier and a teacher at a Muslim school for girls. Both said their career prospects would be hindered as a result of the spying.
Martini concluded they and other plaintiffs weren’t injured by the surveillance. If any harm occurred, it was only after the Associated Press published articles about the program, the judge said.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, which served as co-counsel with the group Muslim Advocates, said the decision ignores the harm Muslims suffered from the program.
The ruling “gives legal sanction to the targeted discrimination of Muslims anywhere and everywhere in this country, without limitation, for no other reason than their religion,” Baher Azmy, the center’s legal director, said in a statement.
He compared the decision to a “discredited” U.S. Supreme Court case that allowed the internment of Japanese Americans based on their ancestry during World War II.
Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesman for the New York City Law Department, declined to comment on the ruling.
The case is Hassan v. City of New York, 2:12-cv-3401, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark).
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