CAIRO – As Republican presidential hopefuls talk about Muslims as a threat to the nation, nearly 1000 American Muslim heroes are working silently in New York Police Department alone, protecting the US at home and abroad.
“This is our homeland, we are here to live, and we are going to protect this nation and serve our fellow citizens,” NYPD Capt. Waheed Akhtar, 41-year-old executive officer of District 20 of the Transit Division and second vice president of the NYPD Muslim Officers Society, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday evening.
Akhtar added, “We are all one nation and we have to live together.”
Putting on his uniform every day, Akhtar risks his life for all citizens regardless of their faith.
“I put on a uniform every day. I put on a vest and I go out and protect my fellow citizens,” Akhtar said.
He joined the NYPD 11 years ago, choosing the career of his father who was a Pakistani police officer.
“He’s a cop over there and I’m a cop over here,” Akhtar said. “This is my second nature. I’m living the lifestyle of protect and serve.”
The decision to join NYPD came four years after the death of Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a Muslim cadet with the New York Police Department who was one of the early responders to save victims.
Muslims make up 1% of America’s 322 million population, according to Pew Research center.
Anti-Muslim sentiments have reached an all-time high after the rise of the so-called Islamic State, formerly known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Moreover, the Republican presidential candidates, such as Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson, have added to increasing anti-Muslim sentiments.
Trump’s views on immigration have sparked controversy nationwide, especially his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the US.
Akhtar, the NYPD’s first Pakistani captain, said that he and other Muslim officers section of the subway system and joins the rest of the department in what he termed “the front line against terrorists.”
“They will be confronted by Muslims in law enforcement,” Akhtar said.
“We have taken an oath to defend this country, to defend this nation, and defend this great city.”
He added, “I’m very privileged and honored to serve this great country.”
Earlier this week, Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz said that the US needs to “empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”
His comments struck an already raw nerve in Muslim communities throughout the US although Donald Trump praised Cruz’s idea.
President Obama called the approach “wrong and un-American.”
For him, bigotry rhetoric by Republican presidential hopefuls is another challenge they have to face.
“It is very disturbing,” Akhtar said, referring to Trump and Cruz anti-Muslim comments.
“Especially when it comes from political figures, it works as a poison. They are pretty much poisoning our values.”