A Muslim-American Iraq War veteran suing the New York Police Department (NYPD) over a former controversial surveillance program of Muslims took to Twitter Wednesday to clarify his position on this year’s presidential race.
Farhaj Hassan’s tweet came two days after the International Business Times published an article Monday that said Hassan was supporting Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner who has called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
“I wish to make very clear that I do not support or endorse any of Donald Trump’s proposed discriminatory policies, whether toward Muslims, Latinos or others,” Hassan wrote, adding, “As a Bernie Sanders supporter, my previous comments about the presidential race were meant to be tongue-in-cheek criticism of the entrenched interests of the Clinton campaign and should not be interpreted as diminishing my commitment — and the commitment of so many others in the Muslim community — to challenge discrimination against Muslims here in the United States.”
Spokeswoman Debayani Kar of Muslim Advocates, which represents plaintiffs in the NYPD Muslim surveillance lawsuit, told NBC News in an email that Hassan was unavailable to comment.
In an email statement to NBC News Thursday, Peter S. Goodman, global editor in chief of the International Business Times, said: “Ismat (the article’s author) had a lengthy conversation with Mr. Hassan and got into great detail and nuance. We are fully confident in our story.”
The International Business Times quoted Hassan as saying, “I will vote for Trump. Who better than an absolute outsider who isn’t beholden to special interests so far?” The piece also said Hassan’s position was not unique, and cited a survey of 2,000 registered U.S. Muslim voters, released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations in February, that said 7 percent would cast ballots for Trump.
The survey revealed that 52 percent of respondents would vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and 22 percent for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. It also said 30 percent of those surveyed believed Islamophobia was the most important issue in the presidential primaries.
“Trump’s temporary hate speech, xenophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment is sheer genius,” Hassan is quoted as saying in the article. “He’s doing it to get the ‘bubba’ vote because that’s what he needs right now. He’ll come closer to the center as soon as the Midwest states start voting, because he has to.”
Hassan is the lead plaintiff in a 2012 federal lawsuit alleging that the NYPD monitored Muslims, their businesses and houses of worship, as well as schools and organizations in New York City and New Jersey, in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In 2014, the NYPD disbanded the unit involved in the surveillance program, a decision that at the timedrew praise from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
That same year, U.S. District Judge William Martini of New Jersey threw out Hassan’s lawsuit, saying the surveillance was more likely conducted to identify budding terrorist conspiracies than to discriminate. An appeals court reinstated it in October, saying the allegations pose constitutional concerns that, if true, must be redressed.