When the story broke that the NYPD had a surveillance program in New Jersey, many Muslims and elected officials expressed outrage. Over the weekend, there was a meeting between those in the Muslim community and officials to discuss the issue. Islamic Center of Passaic County Outreach Director Mohamed El Filali sat down with NJToday Managing Editor Mike Schneider to talk about the NYPD surveillance, the relationships between Muslims, Christians and Jews and his take on a billboard sponsored by atheists.
Filali said he wants a formal investigation completed into the NYPD’s actions in the Garden State regarding the surveillance of Muslims. Although he said his questions weren’t answered by the weekend meeting, he called it “a step in the right direction.” He added that Attorney General Jeff Chiesa promised to have some answers in the short term.
From Filali’s view, what the NYPD did is illegal. “The NYPD has jurisdiction in New York City and the surrounding boroughs,” he said. “For them to come to the state of New Jersey and surveil Muslims here, I think it’s outside of the law.” He added that he would find the same actions by police in New Jersey to be offensive if there was no probable cause prior to the surveillance.
Filali said relations between Muslims, Christians and Jews have improved with individuals from all three faiths “working together to make the state and the country better.”
He said he finds billboards that have been put up by atheists in his area to be interesting because they ask viewers to question the existence of god, which is what he says is done at the mosques. He said he believes the money would be better spent to help social service groups and encourage better discussions, however.