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(New York) – New York City officials should order a full investigation into the showing of an anti-Muslim film during police training and take appropriate action against all those responsible, Human Rights Watch said today.

The 72-minute documentary, “The Third Jihad: Radical Islam's Vision for America,” was shown to at least 1,489 police officers on a “continuous loop” during counterterrorism training sessions for three months to a year in 2010, according to recently released police documents.

“The New York City police not only showed an offensive anti-Muslim film during training, but its leadership grossly misrepresented the scope of the problem,” said Alison Parker, US program director at Human Rights Watch. “A real investigation is promptly needed, with real results.”

The New York City police have provided false information about the showing of the film since the story broke a year ago, Human Rights Watch said. In the Village Voice article that first reported the story in January 2011, the police spokesman claimed that the film had only been shown “a couple of times.” In March, the spokesman responded to WNYC news by email saying that the video was “aired once while officers were doing paper work.” Police documents, obtained by the Brennan Center for Justice under New York’s Freedom of Information Law after nine months of effort, show this statement was untrue.

The police department’s spokesman also told the media last year that Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s appearance in the film came from old video clips and that Kelly had no direct participation in the film’s production.  However, after the New York Times recently obtained information from the filmmaker confirming that Kelly was specifically interviewed for the film, the spokesman conceded that this was the case.

Officers from the police training unit in New York told the media that they had obtained the film from the US Department of Homeland Security. The police spokesman asserted that senior police officials had not approved the showing of the film and that the decision was made by a police sergeant who has since been reprimanded.  The incident follows in the wake of city admissions last year that the New York police have been conducting aggressive surveillance of Muslim American neighborhoods, mosques, and Muslim student groups in the city.

The film uses video of atrocities purportedly taken from Islamist extremist websites interspersed with interviews and clips from the United States to claim that the aim of “much of Muslim leadership here in America” is to “infiltrate and dominate” the United States. The movie was produced by the New York-based Clarion Fund, which has previously produced films about Islamist terrorism and Iran's nuclear program.

The city’s response to the incident to date has been strong on condemnation but weak on action, Human Rights Watch said.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the media on January 24, 2012, that whoever showed the film to police officers during training “exercised some terrible judgment.” He said he was unaware of who did, but, “We’ll find out.”

In a January 25 statement, Commissioner Kelly offered apologies to the Muslim community, “who would find the film inflammatory and its airing on department property, though unauthorized, to be inappropriate.” Neither official apparently made any mention of disciplinary action against those responsible for showing the film or any other steps the city would take to remedy the situation.

“The problem here is not just about the police showing an inflammatory movie,” Parker said. “Their failure to begin disciplinary action shows a serious disregard for the rights of the city’s Muslims and fuels concerns that the Muslim community is being singled out for this kind of treatment.  The city needs to demonstrate that the police will not engage in discrimination.” 

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