Boro Muslims boycott Bloomberg’s annual breakfast
By Rebecca Henely

Several Queens Muslim leaders and their allies from other faiths added their names to a letter calling for a boycott of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s annual interfaith breakfast, which was held Friday.

The boycott was called in response to revelations in an Associated Press report in November that said the NYPD sent undercover officers into mosques, hookah bars, ethnic bookstores, restaurants and cafes to look for signs of radicalism among the city’s Muslim populations. The Dec. 29 letter criticized the mayor for defending the NYPD’s actions.

“We seek your clear, unambiguous, public support for the rights and privacy of all New Yorkers, including Muslims,” the letter said, “and a condemnation of all policies that profile and target communities and community groups solely based on their religion or the color of their skin.”

The breakfast, which has been an annual tradition for Bloomberg for the past 11 years, took place Friday morning at the New York Public Library, at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

Signers of the pledge came from mosques in all five boroughs, and about eight were from Queens religious organizations. Queens has large Muslim communities in Jackson Heights, Astoria and Flushing, as well as mosques in Jamaica.

Robina Niaz, executive director of the Flushing-based Muslim women’s group Turning Point for Women & Families, said that while she was not invited, she signed the pledge because she believed the NYPD’s actions would further marginalize the Muslim population.

“It’s time for Muslim leaders to stand up and say, ‘This needs to stop,’” Niaz said.

The Jackson Heights-based Desis Rising Up and Moving also participated in the boycott.

“We have members who have directly been affected by the NYPD’s policies and have been speaking out about them from even before the Associated Press confirmations,” said Fahd Ahmed, legal and policy director for the group.

But not all Queens Muslims protested the breakfast.

Imam Mohd Qayyoom, of the Muhammadi Community Center of Jackson Heights, attended the event.

“It was very great,” Qayyoom said. “We exchanged views with all other faiths.”

Qayyoom, who makes it one of the central tenants of his mosque to fight against terrorism, said he was for the surveillance and said the NYPD must be able to do its job.

“We must prepare to keep the peace in the community,” he said. “We must cooperate with officials.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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