NEW YORK - New York police have been intensively monitoring Muslim students at colleges, even though they haven’t been accused of any wrongdoing, a report stated.

Police talked with local authorities about professors 480km away in Buffalo and even sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded students names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed, the Associated Press (AP), reported on Sunday. Detectives trawled Muslim student websites every day and, although professors and students had not been accused of any wrongdoing, their names were recorded in reports prepared for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Asked about the monitoring, police spokesman Paul Browne provided a list of 12 people arrested or convicted on terrorism charges in the United States and abroad who had once been members of Muslim student associations, which the NYPD referred to as MSAs. ‘I see a violation of civil rights here’, said Tanveer Haq, head of the Muslim Student Association at Syracuse.

‘Nobody wants to be on the list of the FBI or the NYPD (New York Police Department) or whatever. Muslim students want to have their own lives, their own privacy and enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities that everybody else has’, he said.

In recent months, the AP has revealed secret programmes the NYPD built with help from the CIA to monitor Muslims at the places where they eat, shop and offer prayers.

The AP also published details about how police placed undercover officers at Muslim student associations in colleges within the City limits as this revelation has outraged faculty and student groups. Though the NYPD says it follows the same rules as the FBI, some of the NYPD’s activities go beyond what the FBI is allowed to do.

Kelly and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have repeatedly said that the police only follow legitimate leads about suspected criminal activity. But the latest documents mention no wrongdoing by any students.

In one report, an undercover officer describes accompanying 18 Muslim students from the City College of New York on a whitewater rafting trip in upstate New York on April 21, 2008. The officer noted the names of attendees who were officers of the Muslim Student Association.

‘In addition to the regularly scheduled events (rafting), the group prayed at least four times a day, and much of the conversation was spent discussing Islam and was religious in nature’,” the report says. Jawad Rasul, one of the students on the trip, said he was stunned that his name was included in the police report, AP said. ‘It forces me to look around wherever I am now’, Rasul was quoted as saying.

But another student, Ali Ahmed, whom the NYPD said appeared to be in charge of the trip, said he understood the police department’s concern. ‘I can’t blame them for doing their job’, Ahmed said. City College criticised the surveillance and said it was unaware the NYPD was watching students.

‘The City College of New York does not accept or condone any investigation of any student organisation based on the political or religious content of its ideas’, the college said in a written statement.

Another report, entitled ‘Weekly MSA Report’ and dated Nov 22, 2006, explained that officers from the NYPD’s Cyber Intelligence unit visited the websites, blogs and forums of Muslim student associations as a ‘daily routine’, according to AP.