- More Muslims are joining police force in the US, including in North Jersey.
- Man objective is to break stereotypes and show an image that many in the public may not otherwise see.
- Muslim officers in law enforcement are working to rebuild trust with their communities.
A first encounter with police forces after moving to the USA was the inspiration that led Ramy Amir to join Paterson police force in 2007.
It was during a family party to celebrate his arrival from Egypt when officers came over a complaint of loud music.
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“They were professional and polite,” Amir recalled, NorthJersey.com reported.
“They congratulated me for coming to the States and said to enjoy and have fun, just keep the music down. My father closed the door and ever since that day, I said, ‘I want to be like them.’ ”
Today, he is one of nearly 30 Muslim police officers in the Paterson department as the number of Muslims continues to grow across the US, especially in North Jersey.
While some Muslim feel mistrust toward police over religious and racial profiling incidents, attitudes are changing as more Muslims seek public service as a career path.
“It’s evolving into something, where a few members of your community joined up and were able to share their experiences, and it’s attracting more people to this line of work,” said Detective Mudduser Malik of the New Jersey State Police.
“Now, if someone is thinking about [law enforcement] and is seeking a position, they know they have a shot,” Amir added. “They know they are wanted.”
Passaic County Sheriff Officer Huda Shalabi (Tariq Zehawi/NorthJersey.com)
By joining the police department, Muslims get to break stereotypes and show an image to the public and to fellow officers that they may not otherwise see.
One of those officers breaking stereotypes is Officer Huda Shalabi, one of several New Jersey cops who wears a hijab.
“As the first Muslim hijabi officer in my department, it was shocking to all at first,” she said.
“I had a lot of coworkers curious about my hijab. They have learned and now respect what it represents, and it doesn’t make a difference.”
Adeel Rana, a deputy inspector at the NYPD and president of the NYPD Muslims Officers Society, also thinks that the presence of Muslims in policing and their work in outreach is key to rebuilding trust.
“We have done so much work to mend those relations or those wounds with the community,” Rana said.
“People in the community know they can reach out to a Muslim officer if they have a safety concern.”
“It’s not an overnight thing. I’m not going to say it’s already complete. A wound if very hard to heal especially if you went through it yourself. But we’re doing it every day, going out there being in the community and being proactive.”
According to Rana, at least 1,700 uniformed Muslim officers serve in the NYPD.
American cities with large Muslim populations, like Chicago; Dearborn, Michigan; Houston and Baltimore are also seeing an increase in Muslim officers.