Mayor Michael Bloomberg had a message to New York City's Muslim community: don't worry that the New York Police Department showed an anti-Muslim film to around 1,500 officers, because top cop Ray Kelly “probably visits more mosques” than many Muslims in New York.
Speaking at a press conference in Queens, Bloomberg continued his defense of Kelly: “He has reached out to this community as he has reached out to lots of other communities. We have things regularly at 1 Police Plaza for clergy people of each religion, including Islam. And we'll continue to do that.”
But Muslim community leaders and activists, backed by a diverse coalition of allies, are having none of that. They want Kelly fired. And they say this latest incident shows how anti-Muslim sentiment has become institutionalized in the NYPD.
A rejoinder to Kelly's defense was already on display at around the same time Bloomberg spoke, at a January 26 press conference on the steps of City Hall. Protesters held signs labeling Kelly a racist. Anger was in the air, and Muslim activists and allies repeatedly called for Kelly's resignation; for “corrective training” for the officers who viewed the film; and for independent oversight of the NYPD. As chants of “Kelly must go” rang through the air, some activists demanded state or federal oversight of New York City police.
“This outrage is a violation of the honor of our city and those who protect it,” said Cyrus McGoldrick, the civil rights manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations' New York chapter.
The battle is centered on an Islamophobic film titled The Third Jihad, which was shown to police officers on a continuous loop during “the sign-in, medical and administrative orientation process,” according to police documents obtained by the Brennan Center for Justice. The film, which is filled with violent imagery and posits that mainstream Muslim groups are in fact secretly plotting to take over the U.S., was financed by the Clarion Fund, a right-wing organization with links to Israeli settlers. Compounding the NYPD and Bloomberg administration's problems is the fact that Kelly willingly agreed to sit down for a 90-minute interview for the film and that NYPD spokesman Paul Browne lied about Kelly's involvement and how many officers saw the film.