NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa quietly visited a Newark mosque Friday that had been listed in a secret report by the New York Police Department, and he reassured worshippers that New Jersey officials do not believe certain groups of citizens have lesser rights than others.
Chiesa attended prayer services at Masjid Ibrahim, a modest, single-story mosque set up inside a ramshackle former commercial space in Newark. The mosque was among several in the report by the NYPD, which conducted surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey and elsewhere.
“It is not tolerable here in New Jersey for us to have people treated differently in this state — period,” Chiesa said.
The attorney general’s visit was part of an ongoing effort by his office to repair relations between Muslims and New Jersey law enforcement after The Associated Press uncovered the NYPD spying. The NYPD has said its actions were legal and it has the right to travel to other cities in carrying out its duties.
Explaining to mosque-goers that he had only been in office about a month when the NYPD spying came to light, Chiesa said he was there to listen and answer questions from the community. He said he understood how badly he and his family would feel if they had been subjected to spying at their church or made to feel they could not freely practice their religion.
The mosque’s imam, Mustafa El-Amin, is a member of the Muslim outreach committee formed by Chiesa’s office in the wake of the NYPD revelations. He has gained a following for oratory that translates the teachings of the Quran into modern-day parables, relevant to his largely poor and working-class African-American congregants.