The New York Police Department has faced criticism for its surveillance of the Muslim community, but one prominent Muslim journalist defended the department in an interview with Fox News.
“We use religion as a cover,” said Asra Nomani, a 46-year-old journalist whose work has been published by the Wall Street Journal and The Daily Beast. Nomani, a native of India, says radical ideology is very real -- and damaging to all Muslims.
“We're saying that you can't go into our mosques, you can't look at our Muslim organizations, you can't even look at Muslims because that's to target us," she told Fox News during an interview in suburban Washington. "But the truth is, we do have a problem in our Muslim community.”
Nomani showed Fox News a Koran from a mosque in West Virginia. She says the Koran’s Saudi publisher added negative language about Jews and Christians. This interpretation of Islam, Nomani says, is part of a larger problem.
“I think that there is a movement in America right now to claim this concept of Islamophobia, to say that people are hating on Islam," she said. "Let's be honest, there are people that do hate on Islam. But I think that (Police Commissioner) Ray Kelly and the New York Police Department have been targeted in this larger campaign to try to show that people are picking on Muslims.”
The New York Police Department's controversial surveillance program involved efforts to infiltrate mosques and Muslim communities on college campuses to gather intelligence on potential threat. News of the secret program has sparked strong reactions, both negative and positive.
Nomani said the Muslim community should take charge: “I think we would be better served by being more proactive rather than defensive.”
Nomani worked with Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and his throat slit by Islamic radicals in Pakistan in February 2002. Pearl’s death was a personal turning point for Nomani in her thinking on religion.
“They did their prayer on the blood-soaked floor of the room where he was murdered. And so, that was when I knew that we needed to challenge how it is that people of supposed faith use religion to sanction their violence," she said.
Nomani , who is codirector of the Pearl Project, which investigated the facts surrounding his death, said the search for the killers was eye-opening.
“In our five weeks searching for Danny, what I discovered was that the Pakistani police had no place that was off-limits to them. There was no political correctness in their books about mosques that they couldn't enter," she said.
As for the Attorney General Eric Holder's confirmation last week to lawmakers that his department is reviewing complaints about the NYPD’s surveillance, Nomani was unequivocal: If you draw the line, make it clear that the terrorists are on one side and everyone else is on the other.
“I think that Ray Kelly has a sophisticated understanding of what the problem is, that it's a reality," she said. "And I would tell him to just keep going for it, you know, and really help us clean up our mosques and our communities."
Nomani also has faced a personal cost for her activism, which was profiled in a PBS documentary called “The Mosque in Morgantown.”
“I’ve had death threats," she told Fox News. "I’m not going to be voted most popular at the local mosque. But I think that those are the calculations you have to make when you want to make a difference.”