NEW YORK — Muslim groups are calling for New York's police commissioner to step down because of his appearance in a film they say puts their religion and its adherents in a bad light.
About 20 activists held a news conference on the steps of City Hall on Thursday and criticized Ray Kelly for giving an interview to the producers of the movie "The Third Jihad."
The movie uses dramatic footage to warn against the dangers of radical Islam and shariah, or Islamic law. Muslim groups say it encourages Americans to be suspicious of all Muslims.
"Terrorism is an evil that must be eliminated, but one cannot fight wrong with wrong," said Talib Abdur-Rashid, a Muslim cleric.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday he stood by Kelly and the commissioner's spokesman, Paul Browne. Activists had also demanded Browne's resignation.
However, the mayor said Kelly would have to redouble his outreach efforts to Muslims.
"Anything like this doesn't help credibility, so Ray's got to work at establishing, re-establishing or reinforcing the credibility that he does have," Bloomberg said.
Kelly appears for about 30 seconds of the 72-minute movie, which was made by the conservative Clarion Fund. He originally said he was not involved but on Wednesday acknowledged he had given a 90-minute interview to the filmmakers in 2007.
Browne he had initially forgotten details of Kelly's involvement in the film until asked about it again this week.
"This goes back five years," he said. "There's some suggestion that, `Gee, I suddenly remembered.' I didn't suddenly remember – I went through five years of emails to try and figure out did I get request by this guy who's connected with the foundation."
The movie was later shown to police trainees. The police department said it was played in a continuous loop in the sign-in area of counterterrorism training sessions between October and December 2010. As many as 1,489 trainees may have seen the movie, according to documents released under New York's public records law.
Kelly apologized Wednesday for his appearance and for the playing of the movie.
The Clarion Fund and its supporters say "The Third Jihad" is balanced.
"I don't see why they're so upset by people seeing it," said Stuart Kaufman of The United West, a group that opposes shariah. "Shariah law is a danger to western civilization and it's up to police to understand the nature of Shariah law so they can prevent this."
The Muslim leaders said they are worried that the police department is teaching officers to treat all Muslims as suspects. They demanded the resignation of Kelly and Browne, and a U.S. Department of Justice inquiry into the showing of the film.
The activists also want retraining of all 1,489 officers "that are walking this city with poison in their brains," said Cyrus McGoldrick, civil rights director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations-New York. CAIR is one of the organizations that "The Third Jihad" accuses of being soft on terrorist groups.
Bloomberg said he doubted the movie had swayed any of the trainees and said he saw no need for retraining.
"I think any retraining is probably being done by the press right now," Bloomberg said.
Kelly has said the department does surveillance only when it is following leads. But an investigation by The Associated Press has revealed a secret intelligence program, set up with the aid of the Central Intelligence Agency, aimed at infiltrating religious groups and monitoring neighborhoods even when there is no evidence of wrongdoing.
The CIA has since decided to pull its officer from the NYPD after an internal investigation criticized poor oversight of the collaboration.
Associated Press reporters Samantha Gross and Tom Hays contributed to this report.