Mohammad Elshinawy is an American citizen residing in Brooklyn with his wife and two children. He has taught and lectured about Islam at various institutions throughout New York City for the last 11 years, always on a volunteer basis. Mr. Elshinawy has suspected that the NYPD has been spying on him since approximately 2004. In the years since then, he has been repeatedly approached by people who turned out to be informants, as well as by NYPD officers.
As a result of this surveillance, Mr. Elshinawy has altered the content of his lectures to avoid certain topics—for example, politics or certain periods in Islamic history—that he worries would be misreported to or misinterpreted by the NYPD. Similarly, he has called off religious study sessions, fearing some of the participants were informants. Many of his peers, aware he is being monitored by the NYPD, have stopped attending his sermons and, in some instances, associating with Mr. Elshinawy altogether. He has also been passed over for lecturing and board positions by institutions fearing mere association with Mr. Elshinawy would attract unwarranted NYPD attention. The NYPD’s unlawful surveillance of Mr. Elshinawy has hindered his ability to teach his religion, provide counsel, and mentor Muslim youth, all of which are core aspects of his religious practice.
In response to the proposed settlement announced in January 2016, Mr. Elshinawy said:
“I joined this lawsuit because I didn’t want anyone else to go through what I had. This settlement reaffirms the core American value of religious freedom and marks a new chapter for my city and for me. It’s not an easy time to be Muslim in America. But this settlement shows that the values that define our country can still guide our policies.”