Many people in Central Brooklyn’s Muslim community are feeling more and more targeted after a controversial documentary film called The Third Jihad, which depicts American Muslims as radical extremists, was shown on a loop over a period of three months to a year to over 1,400 officers receiving antiterrorism training in 2010.
Some Muslims in Bedford-Stuyvesant spoke out not only about the documentary, but about being profiled because of their religious beliefs.
“The question is that you have to look at who is producing and putting money into these films, said Abu Idris Abdul Wasi, owner of Abu’s Bakery located on Bedford Avenue. “You have this very ultraconservative group who produced that film. And for the NYPD to use that film for their training that’s where the problem is. Of all the films for them to sensitize all their officers, especially with all of the Muslims in New York City, why would you use that film?”
Wasi said the film is just one of many negative images, along with other tactics of profiling such as surveillance of mosques and businesses owned and operated by Muslims.
“I haven’t seen the movie but heard a lot about it and I’ve read things about it and if I did watch it I wouldn’t be surprised about anything I see in it. What’s the chance of Muslims turning America into an Islamic state? Even Muslim countries like Egypt don’t follow Islamic law, they follow secular law,” he said.
Other Muslims interviewed around the Masjid At-Taqwa Mosque at the Atlantic/Bedford Avenues intersection feel that there’s a conspiracy going on against Muslims and this propaganda film furthers this sentiment.
“I feel that films like this one and other propaganda films against Muslims or any other group of people can damage and hurt the identity of others. It’s not right and even though we live in a country where freedom of speech is the law, many people (I think) take it too far,” said Mahmud Shabazz, a resident of Fort Greene. “I have been coming to this community, praying in this community for years and I’m no terrorist. I work every day and support my family.”
Council member Jumaane Williams criticized Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne’s initial statement in 2011 where he said the film was only aired “a couple of times”.
Furthermore, Browne indicated that Commissioner Ray Kelly’s appearance in the documentary was never authorized by the NYPD and was lifted from old interview clips.
However, published articles reported that Browne admitted that in fact he had recommended in February 2007 that Commissioner Kelly be interviewed for the film.
The incident even drew rare Mayor Bloomberg criticism of the NYPD for airing The Third Jihad and he said it showed “terrible judgment”.
Williams said Bloomberg and he were in agreement on condemning the screening of the Islamophobic film to NYPD officers, particularly during antiterrorism training.
“It would stand to reason that if he understands this, he should also understand that this is a product of this city’s unjust policing culture that excuses this kind of behavior. The disparate way that communities of more color are treated originates from decisions like this, and those decisions originate from the discriminatory culture that the mayor has refused to acknowledge,” said Williams.
“Mayor Bloomberg is a smart man, so I would hope that he can follow and recognize this evolution of high-level mistakes,” the Flatbush lawmaker added.