New York: Brooklyn mosque volunteer named Ishtiaq Ahmed filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday alleging that New York Police Department (NYPD) officers falsified an “assault” that never happened in order to arrest Mr. Ahmed and intimidate him and his mosque community.
According to a press note released from the lawyer of Ishtiaq Ahmed, NYPD officers fabricated the assault after an interaction in which Mr. Ahmed enforced social distancing restrictions against members of service attempting to enter the Makki Masjid mosque’s prayer room during services.
The press release alleges that NYPD officers falsely reported that Mr. Ahmed assaulted a member of the mosque community during that interaction, even though CCTV footage confirms that no assault happened. The purported victim of the assault also told media outlets that no assault occurred and that he never made a report to the police.
Based on their ‘fabricated’ report, NYPD officers arrested Mr. Ahmed, jailed him for 24 hours, and charged with him assault. It took months for the false charges to be dismissed.
“When I came to this country, I never expected police here could do this,” Mr. Ahmed said. “They targeted me and destroyed my life to make an example of what happens if you question them. Police act like they can get away with anything they want in our community.”
According to the Complaint, the ‘fabricated’ report was retaliation for the mosque’s recent objection to NYPD officers seizing the mosque pulpit to make speeches promoting the NYPD, as well as Mr. Ahmed’s effort to apply the mosque’s social distancing restrictions against NYPD officers. The Complaint alleges that NYPD officials had regularly visited the Makki Masjid mosque in Brooklyn’s “Little Pakistan” neighborhood to make such speeches as part of “community policing” tactics that were actually intended to divide the community.
The Complaint alleges that the officers intended to humiliate, intimidate, and punish Mr. Ahmed and his community for denying them unfettered access to the mosque.
“NYPD framing Mr. Ahmed was part of a decades-long police campaign to intimidate and control the city’s Muslim communities,” said attorney Shakeer Rahman. “Although NYPD has tried to rebrand its surveillance of immigrants as ‘community policing,’ Mr. Ahmed’s experience shows how this reform is just as violent as the tactics of the past.”
According to the press release, the fabrication was perpetuated by several NYPD officers, including Deputy Inspector Richard Taylor—who was present during the interactions that NYPD falsely characterized as an assault.
“It is unacceptable that several NYPD officers thought they could lie about Mr. Ahmed and get away with it,” said attorney Sam Barr. “This culture of impunity has to end.”
As a result of his false arrest, Mr. Ahmed claims that he suffered physical injuries and has experienced emotional distress, including post-traumatic stress disorder. He also lost his Taxi and Limousine Commission license upon his arrest, and the incident had a devastating effect on his ability to support his family.
“Since the arrest last year I have not been able to sleep, I get nightmares and suicidal anxiety, I have been terrified to go to the Friday prayers, and I cannot even look at the clothes I was wearing that day,” Mr. Ahmed said. “My children feel the trauma too, their grades at school are suffering, and they tell me they want to leave the country.”