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New York voters back NYPD Muslim-spying operation, poll finds

A poll released Tuesday finds that 58 percent of New York voters support NYPD antiterror operations that critics call a violation of Muslims' civil liberties. 

By Kara Bloomgarden-SmokeContributor / March 13, 2012

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly responds to questions during a news conference last month in New York. A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday says 82 percent of respondents thought the NYPD has been effective in combatting terrorism.

Frank Franklin II/AP/File

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New York

A new poll suggests that most New York voters support their police department's aggressive antiterror tactics, despite claims from critics that the surveillance techniques violate Muslims' civil liberties.  

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A series of reports by the Associated Press claims that the New York Police Department’s Demographics Unit targeted only New York's Muslim community for surveillance, which included recording conversations in stores and license plate numbers of people attending mosque – even without evidence of any criminal activity.

But 58 percent of New York voters said that police acted appropriately in dealing with Muslims, according to a poll released Tuesday by Quinnipiac University. Some 29 percent disagreed. 

An even greater share of New York voters – 82 percent – said that the NYPD has been effective in fighting terrorism. The poll found that more Republicans support the NYPD than Democrats, but a majority of both parties are in support.

On Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn – a Muslim area that includes many of the Syrian-owned businesses targeted by the secret investigation – several non-Muslims interviewed said they support the NYPD’s tactics.

“It doesn’t bother me if it means better security,” says Tony Sadek, owner of Damascus Pastry Shop, which was targeted by the NYPD, according to an AP report released last week.

Mr. Sadek points out that he is from Lebanon, Christian, and is the third-generation owner of the shop, which has been in the same spot on Atlantic Avenue since 1920.

Tom Fusco, an engineer who lives in nearby Cobble Hill, also supports the NYPD. “As long as the NYPD is staying within the law, then I’m OK with it,” he says. “Once they cross that line, then that would be bad.”

But Muslims interviewed on Atlantic Avenue had a different perspective.

“We left our country to live a better life, not to worry about every word we say,” says Hoda Moftah, a sales associate at Oriental Travel LTD, one of the Syrian-owned business that was under surveillance.

Ms. Moftah, whose daughter attends Barnard College and has been involved in meetings with campus Muslim groups about the NYPD surveillance, has lived in New York for 25 years.

Hussain Sulalman, who works at Mocha Hookah, a hookah bar and café on Atlantic Avenue, says that he isn’t surprised by the reports, although he is disappointed.

"There is no real justification for doing this in just some neighborhoods.” But, he says, “I don’t like feeling like I’m being watched.” 

Sunni and Shiite Islam: Do you know the difference? Take our quiz.

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