NEW YORK — Members of an Islamic coalition stood in front of police headquarters with signs Monday to support the New York Police Department's aggressive counterterrorism efforts, saying the agency is doing what is necessary to protect the city — and Muslims.
Among about three dozen members and supporters of the American Islamic Leadership Coalition attending the rally was the narrator of a controversial documentary about the dangers of radical Islam that the NYPD showed at a training area and has since disavowed.
"We are not here to criticize the NYPD, but rather thank them for monitoring extremists — a job that Muslims should be doing," said the narrator, Dr. Zudhi Jasser.
Jasser and others, like Manda Zand Ervin, said that the danger is clearly coming from within the Muslim community, and that it's up to other Muslims to help law enforcement stop the threat. They galvanized their efforts and formed the coalition in 2010 after congressional hearings last summer examining the radical Islamic terror threat in the U.S.
The New York Police Department has been criticized by many other Muslim groups and politicians after The Associated Press reported officers secretly monitored Muslims across the Northeast in the years following the Sept. 11 attacks.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said he is doing everything within the law to protect the city from another terrorist attack, and while they understand they may not make everyone happy, they believe they have a good relationship with the Muslim community overall.
Other rallies by opponents of the NYPD's monitoring have drawn hundreds of people.
Imam Qazi Qayyoom, of Queens, said he came Monday to support the police department because he is grateful to them.
"They protect us, they allow us to pray in peace; some of us don't have those rights in the countries where we came from," he said. "We thank them."
U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said at the rally that the department deserves a medal for its work. He lambasted coverage by the AP and The New York Times as biased and said the news outlets were "disgracing themselves."
He said the department should be a model for other departments around the country. While King was speaking, a heckler yelled from across the plaza: "American Muslims do not support brutality."
"The Third Jihad," a documentary produced by the conservative Clarion Fund, accuses some moderate Muslims of being more radical than they appear on the surface and uses vivid footage of bombings and terror attacks to illustrate the danger of radical Islam.
Speakers interviewed in the film warn viewers repeatedly that Western civilization is under attack. Manda Zand Ervin, founder of the Alliance for Iranian Women, was also scheduled to speak and was also interviewed in the film.
The film was played in the lobby of an NYPD training area after a sergeant brought it in, and was stopped after one of the trainees complained. Nearly 1,500 police officers went through the training and may have seen it. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it was "terrible judgment" to show it.
The department initially said footage of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly appeared to be lifted, but Kelly later said he was interviewed. He appears in it for about 30 seconds. He said after he saw the film, which he called "inflammatory and a little much," that he regretted doing the interview. He has apologized to Muslims for it.