At Columbia University and elsewhere, the fear that the New York Police Department might secretly be infiltrating Muslim student's lives has spread beyond them to others who find the reported tactics "disgusting," as one teenager put it.
The NYPD surveillance of Muslims on a dozen college campuses in the Northeast is a surprising and disappointing violation, students said Saturday in reaction to Associated Press reports that revealed the intelligence-gathering at Columbia and elsewhere.
"If this is happening to innocent Muslim students, who's next?" asked freshman Dina Morris, 18, of Amherst, Mass. "I'm the child of an immigrant, and I was just blown away by the news; it's disgusting."
Documents obtained by the AP show that the NYPD used undercover officers and informants to infiltrate Muslim student groups. An officer even went whitewater rafting with students and reported on how many times they prayed and what they discussed. Police also trawled college websites and blogs, compiling daily reports on the activities of Muslim students and academics.
It was all part of the NYPD's efforts to keep tabs on Muslims throughout the region as part of the department's anti-terrorism efforts. Police built databases of where Muslims lived and worked, where they prayed, even where they watched sports.
In the past week, Muslims and non-Muslims alike held a town hall meeting on the Manhattan campus of the Ivy League college to discuss the police surveillance. Concerned members of many school groups attended.
On Friday, some of their counterparts at New York University choked up as they gathered to voice their outrage at the notion that even students' religious habits were being tracked by the NYPD.
"Why is the number of times that we pray per day — whether or not I come in this space and put my forehead on the floor in worship of my Lord — why does that have anything to do with somebody trying to keep this country safe?" said Elizabeth Dann, 29, an NYU law student...