Muslim Latinos in New York say they are being followed, despite spy unit shutdown

Tusha Díaz and Sadia Irfan, at the Islamic center in Union City, New Jersey, say that their community is still under surveillance. (Photo by Gerardo Romo via El Diario).

In spite of the New York Police Department’s decision last month to discontinue its surveillance of the Muslim community in the city, many of its Hispanic members said that they still feel observed by federal agencies.

A 19-year-old Muslim woman who preferred to remain anonymous said that she was followed less than a month ago by two plainclothes officers. They tagged along from the moment she left her university campus in Manhattan until she arrived in her job in Brooklyn.

“I noticed that they were cops because they were wearing their badges on their belts,” said the political science major, of Puerto Rican descent. A single woman who converted to Islam two years ago, she said she is afraid of being followed again because of her hijab, the traditional headscarf worn by Muslim women.

The NYPD announced last April 15 that they were dismantling their “Zone Assessment Unit,” created in 2002, which operated under the name “Demographics Unit.” The team was in charge of monitoring areas where Muslim communities concentrate in order to detect terrorist threats. The measure was deemed by several community groups to be a civil rights violation.

Maliah Khan, a 36-year-old Puerto Rican, said that the disappearance of the surveillance unit is “a great achievement.” However, the Bronx resident, who converted to Islam a year ago, is still worried that federal agents are watching her religious community.