A Rally for Muslim Rights Echoes Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring

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Dozens of people gathered at Foley Square Friday to protest against the NYPD, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg for allegedly systematically spying on New York Muslims after the September 11 attacks.

Muslim Protestors praying in Foley Square on Friday afternoon. Photo by Rose D'souza

Dozens of people gathered at Foley Square Friday to protest against the NYPD, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg for allegedly systematically spying on New York Muslims after the September 11 attacks.

Today’s rally was the first organized protest since the Associated Press published its investigations of the infiltration program last August. The story alleged that a CIA official, David Cohen, organized a secret police squad that infiltrated the city’s Muslim communities. The police department denied the program’s existence.

Various aspects of Muslims life were monitored by the undercover unit, which allegedly targeted Muslims who Americanized their names and tracked the Internet activity of Muslim student organizations.

Today, many of the protestors at Foley Square made the direct connection between the NYPD infiltration program and the messages of Occupy Wall Street.

“We support Occupy Wall Street. We support the [protest against] illegal surveillance of the Muslim community and really the entire community at large,” says Arasalan Ghelieh. “These issues are completely intertwined and we’re proud to be part of all of them.”

Ghelieh, 28, is a New York lawyer with the National Lawyers Guild, an organization that supports both the Occupy Wall Street and Muslim protests.

“The Muslim community is part of the 99%. The Muslim community has for years dealt with the same issues that the occupiers are now dealing with, including increased police presence and the illegal surveillance,” Ghelieh adds.

In Friday’s rally, called nearly 3 months after the revelations, Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid led the crowd in afternoon prayers. Non-Muslim protestors stood around holding signs of support for Muslim equality. Other signs demanded the end of ethnic and religious profiling from the NYPD and CIA.

Protestors marched against the NYPD's alleged surveillance program targeting Muslims. Photo by Rose D'souza.

Perhaps no one at the rally better understood the importance of protecting Muslim civil rights than Gigi Ibrahim. Ibrahim, 25, is also known as @Gsquare86, a social media identity that brought her international attention because of her activist role in the Egyptian revolution and Arab Spring.

Ibrahim had been invited to New York City as a guest speaker at forums held at Amnesty International and Columbia University yesterday. She said she heard about the rally from a friend and wanted to attend.

“I’m really proud about the [rally’s] turnout. It’s really great, even if it’s small in the eyes of the people. But this will gain momentum. With what’s happening around it with the Occupy Wall Street movement and what’s happening in the world, we can definitely expect the pressure from below.”

Ibrahim says that she hopes today’s protestors can learn from what happened in Arab Spring and realize that ordinary citizens have the power to hold authority figures accountable for their actions.

“The people have every right and actually the responsibility to act and change the status quo. We’ve seen it happen all over the world that this is becoming the model for change. This is how you bring about change.”

Like the Arab Spring and the two-month-old Occupy Wall Street protests, there was a significant youth presence at the Foley Square rally, which took place just steps away from the now empty Zucotti Park.

Bay Ridge resident Dania Darwish also believes that there is a strong connection between the two protests. “I’m here today in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and also with Muslim coalitions,” the 19-year-old student says.

Like many women at the protest, she had a hijab tightly wrapped around her hair, probably protecting her from the blistery winds.

“I’m here because of the spying on Muslims, particularly Brooklyn College. I’m a graduate of Brooklyn College and I don’t think we ever did anything suspicious or anything like that,” says Aziza Al-Taheri, 21, another resident of Bay Ridge, which has one of the largest concentrations of Muslims in the city.

Al-Taheri believes that the college Muslim organizations she belonged to sought to bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims in Brooklyn.

“This spying doesn’t do any good at all. It just makes us feel like we don’t belong in a way. But we want them to know that we are a part of this country,” Al-Taheri says with a strong Brooklyn accent.

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4 Responses to “A Rally for Muslim Rights Echoes Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring”

  1. Kenn Space
    November 18, 2011 at 11:05 PM #

    Dear Seattle Mayor McGinn,

    Did you see were the retired Police Chief of Philadelphia got arrested at occupy NY? He called the NY City police; “‘obnoxious, arrogant and ignorant’”. Now the NYC Police and the Seattle Police have something in common! Please get your officers to respect people and knock off the pepper spray free for all. This occupation movement has just begun, and if the City of Seattle and their police treat them as they have, you are setting up a terrible mess.


    Dear Mr. President,

    There is a very large demonstration being planned for January 20th, 2012 at the Federal Courthouse at 700 Stewart street in Seattle, – and at every Federal Courthouse in the United States.. There are many groups organizing and “gearing up” for this demonstration. I will be promoting and advertising it. This “occupy movement” has only just begun. I suggest you figure out your plan of action and response; The rules of engagement; – Need a way better understanding of what is going on; – than during WTO in Seattle. Treat the people like they are the enemy, and they will become it.

    January 20, 2012 – Move to Amend Occupies the Courts!

    Move To Amend is planning bold action to mark this date — Occupy the Courts — a one day occupation on Friday January 20, 2012, of the Federal Courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States and as many of the 89 U.S. District Court Buildings as we can. (I am inspired by Doctor Martin Luther King who said; “a true revolution of values”, … “there comes a time when silence is betrayal”., “people are not gonna be silenced”.). Move to Amend will lead the charge on the judiciary which created — and continues to expand — corporate personhood rights.

    Please Sign the petition to amend the Constitution for revoking corporate personhood at:


    Dear Human Being,

    There is a meeting Saturday December 3rd, 2011, from 2:00 pm to 5:30 pm at the Capitol Hill library branch at 425 Harvard Ave. E., in Seattle. This meeting is for the demonstration being planned January 20th, 2012; at the Federal Courthouse at 700 Stewart street in Seattle. ( People and organizations involved, permits, porta potties, promotion, organizing, staging, sound, event speakers, entertainment, first aid, water, and stuff.)..The meeting room is reserved and holds 50 people and I would love to fill it up! Please inform interested people and organizations!)(This event is not sponsored by the Seattle public Library.)

    President Obama said; “Failure is not an option”. I agree with him, except he failed to complete that thought.
    I say; Failure is not an option, failure is a given”.

    Capitalize On This Occupation

    Too big to fail;

    Is failing.

    Too big to fail;

    Is not success.

    Too big to fail;

    is a failure literalized.


  2. Brandt Hardin
    November 19, 2011 at 12:00 PM #

    Evicting protesters is Unconstitutional and endangers the basic rights of EVERY last American. Is this the country we were raised in, were men and women are beaten, gassed, pepper-sprayed and arrested for their disapproval of the government? We have to be careful to protect our Constitutional Rights! Raise awareness and do your part with these free posters I designed for the movement on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/11/propaganda-for-occupy-movement.html

  3. Gerard
    November 19, 2011 at 10:28 PM #

    I’m not sure how closely the Arab Spring parallel tracks in this case. Most of the people they were agitating for the release of were convicted of crimes that didn’t involve expressive actions protected by the Constitution, e.g. the Herald Square bomb plotter, the Albanians who were tried and sentenced for plotting to attack Fort Dix.

  4. Ryan T. Forrest
    November 21, 2011 at 3:58 AM #

    Wonder if this means the Muslim Brotherhood is really part of the Occupy Movement…

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