Serving the community for years, New York Muslim Rashid Khan has made history, becoming the Nassau County Police Department’s first Muslim chaplain.
Joining six other clergy members on the force, Khan, the former vice-president of Hamza Masjid Islamic Center in Valley Stream, hopes to provide a bridge to his religion, News Day reported.
“I’m happy to work with the Nassau County Police Department,” Khan said.
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“I love it. I’m living almost 40 years in Valley Stream and I see auxiliary….helping my mosque and I say, ‘Why I don’t step in? And then I step in. I was sergeant [in the police auxiliary] and now I’m chaplain.”
Attending the Thursday swearing-in ceremony, Kasra Fathi, a county police officer, said that being able to turn to a Muslim chaplain “is a great thing to have, if needed,” and demonstrated the department’s commitment to diversity.
“To me it’s another step in our principle of policing and working with the community with fairness and equality to people of all origins, all faiths,” Fathi added.
Muslims praised Khan’s appointment as a positive development, especially for a community often subjected to surveillance by law enforcement.
“It is a good thing for the Muslim community, and the community should also have their representation” in diversifying Long Island, said Habeeb Ahmed, co-chair of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury.
The appointment “further empowers the Muslim community,” said Dr. Hala Ubaid, an obstetrician/gynecologist in Westbury, who is a board member of Muslims for Progress.
“Hopefully, we can build strong relationships with our representatives, no matter which political party they come from to effect positive change.”
Muslim chaplains often serve both Muslims and non-Muslims, offering spiritual support and guidance, and in recent years, chaplains have acted as intra-institutional leaders who work towards greater interfaith understanding and community engagement.
Today, Muslim chaplaincy in the United States has moved away from da’wah towards a focus on support and pastoral care, according to the Association of Muslim Chaplains, a professional organization begun in 2011.