Last week, a family claimed New York Police Department discrimination against Muslims took a violent turn when police officers allegedly beat two sisters, ages 12 and 14, who were wearing hijabs, or headscarves. The girls, Lamis Chapman and Khalia Wilson, were playing in a park in Bronx, NY at around 9:30 pm. when officers told them the park was closed. As the officers followed the girls out, they reportedly threw Lamis and Khalia to the ground, held them in chokeholds, and ripped off their hijabs. And when their 15-year-old brother ran to help, he said the cops, “charged me, picked me up, and slammed me on the floor.”
“I kept saying, ‘I’m 14! What are you doing? We’re not bad kids,’” Khalia said later.
According to the NY Daily News, the entire confrontation was captured on video by a college student, Johnathan Harris, who says he was punched and pepper-sprayed by the cops. Harris said the officer told him “Come here, you little motherfucker. You like recording?”
Police reported an entirely different account of what happened. “The officers told the kids to leave (the park) when they began acting disorderly,” a police source told the Daily News. That source claimed police were escorting the teens when Harris grabbed one of the girls, resulting in some scrapes, bruises, and sprains for the cops.
Outside this incident, the NYPD is already battling criticism of widespread racial profiling and religious discrimination against the city’s Muslim community. The Associated Press reported last month that NYPD has listed at least a dozen mosques as terrorist organizations, sending in informants to record and spy without credible evidence of a threat. Police have also sent in informants to spy on college student groups and Arab-American organizations.
Although Mayor Mike Bloomberg and police commissioner Ray Kelly argue these tactics have thwarted more than a dozen terrorist plots and are necessary to ensure public safety, there is no evidence that NYPD ever directly thwarted any credible threats, nor that its surveillance program has ever led to a single criminal charge or federal investigation. As a result, Muslim groups have mounted a legal challenge, arguing that the practices are yet another way in which the department racially profiles.