Robert Jackson, the only Muslim council member, is OK with NYPD surveillance, conditionally

Robert Jackson (Azi Paybarah via flickr)
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Robert Jackson isn't a threat to public safety. He's a three-term city councilman from Harlem and the chairman of the education committee, and he enjoys running for exercise. He also happens to be a Muslim.

But, he said, he is not entirely averse to being subjected to extra scrutiny by the police.

"Let's assume that they they felt I should be surveilled, or under surveillance, because I am the only Muslim on the City Council," Jackson told me in a recent interview. "I have no problem with them doing that."

But "once they determine" he's not a threat, Jackson said, "they should stop."

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He said the same thing when I asked him about the latest Associated Press story, which reported that NYPD officers had monitored a Muslim student group at Brooklyn College.

"When you determine that there is no type of rhetoric that puts the security of our city or our country in jeopardy, they need to pull back," he said.

(The Council's Higher Education Committee is looking to hold a hearing that will highlight the positive contributions Muslims have made to the city university system.)

During a recent Public Safety Committee hearing about the NYPD's surveillance techniques, police commissioner Ray Kelly was asked by Jackson if he had been under surveillance.

Kelly said he didn't think so, but then jokingly asked Jackson whether he had any unpaid summonses.

Afterwards, I asked Jackson what prompted him to ask the commissioner that question.

"I'm the only Muslim in the City Council," Jackson told me.