Washington: Civil rights lawyers on Monday raised the first opposition to New York Police Department efforts to spy on Muslims, an operation that politicians have been reluctant to even discuss.

The lawyers asked a federal judge in Manhattan to force the NYPD to turn over records about clandestine police programmes that monitored all aspects of daily life in Muslim neighbourhoods. The request represents the first official action against the NYPD since The Associated Press revealed how the police intelligence programmes operate.

A small number of Capitol Hill and New York lawmakers have called for greater oversight and controls over the police department's intelligence unit. But most in politics, including President Barack Obama, have shown no interest in even talking about what the NYPD is doing, much less saying whether they support it.

That reluctance shows how, a decade after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the nation still isn't sure how it wants police to prevent terrorism.

Despite speeches, policy papers and press releases about cooperating with Muslim communities, most politicians see only political risk in speaking for or against programmes that singled out Muslims for investigations aimed at preventing another attack.

In speeches, Obama has spoken out against casting suspicion on Muslims. He has equated discrimination against Muslims with the racial inequities that led to the civil rights era.

Obama also has said that the war against terrorism must not be seen as a war against Islam. Obama has been silent, however, about whether he supports the NYPD surveillance programmes that, as the AP's investigation revealed, used plainclothes officers to eavesdrop inside businesses.

Restaurants serving Muslims were identified and photographed. Hundreds of mosques were investigated. Dozens were infiltrated. Police also maintained a list of 28 countries that, along with "American Black Muslim," were labelled "ancestries of interest."

Such programmes were built with help from the CIA, which sent a veteran officer to New York to help oversee the efforts and which allowed an NYPD detective to complete its espionage course.

Headscarf case

The Supreme Court will let a Muslim woman sue Southern California jailers for making her take off her headscarf in a courthouse holding cell.

The court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from Orange County, California, officials, who were sued in 2007 by Souhair Khateeb. She had gone to the Orange County Superior Court to ask for more time to complete her community service. But a judge ordered her jailed, and jailers forced Khateeb to remove her headscarf.