On Tuesday, a group of New Jersey Muslims went before the Federal Court of appeals, in hopes of reversing a ruling in the district court from February 2014, which justified the New York Police Department’s massive surveillance program that targeted Muslims as potential terrorists, solely because of their religion.
The Guardian reported that the case has 11 plaintiffs, including “an Iraq war veteran, university students, a coalition of mosques, and the head of a religious school for girls.”
According to the Associated Press, the three-judge panel “questioned whether police had any specific leads to justify the surveillance of Muslim businesses, mosques and student groups in New Jersey following 9/11.”
After the decision was made to dismiss the Civil Rights lawsuit in February 2014, Judge William Martini claimed that the “motive of the surveillance program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but rather to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary, law-abiding Muslims.”
According to the Huffington Post, Muslims such as Imam Abdul Muhammad said attendance at his Newark, New Jersey, mosque “dropped by half,” and Farhaj Hassan said he “feared for his position in the Army Reserve,” because of the massive surveillance program.
However, in Judge Martini’s 2014 ruling, he claimed that any damages done by the surveillance program only occurred after the Associated Press revealed that it was being conducted in 2012.
The Guardian reported that starting in 2002, the NYPD dispatched “plainclothes officers or ‘rakers’ to Muslim neighborhoods in New Jersey, monitoring bookstores, bars, nightclubs and cafes” to compile surveillance papers that catalogued “religiously oriented facts.”
According to the Associated Press, the three U.S. Circuit Judges received the case on Tuesday, were critical of the program, asking a lawyer for New York City questions such as, “You’ve got to admit there are a lot of people in this country that became prejudiced against Muslims after 9/11,” and “Whether that includes the people who have instituted the surveillance practice in New York City – how can we know at this point?”
The Huffington Post reported that following the hearing, “plaintiffs and their lawyers expressed optimism that the appeals judges will overturn Martini’s ruling.”
“We definitely put a good foot forward,” said Farhaj Hassan, the lead plaintiff in the case. “Today was a very, very good day for America.“