ASU professor’s workshops show differing cultures
Tempe police have inched closer to fortifying their trust with a community still suspicious of law enforcement after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Sgt. Jon Waide joined more than 20 other civilian and sworn supervisors April 1 and listened as Aneesah Nadir told them how police could work better with local Muslims. The meeting marked the third one for Tempe police and the Arizona State University West professor since she started a Sept. 11 Anti-Bias Project Valley-wide.
“When things heat up in the Middle East we usually get together with the Jewish community to see if they have any concerns,” Waide said. “I think it would be a good idea to do that with the Muslim community as well.”
Nadir, president of the Islamic Social Services Association, has been meeting with Valley law enforcement agencies, media, social service agencies and health groups to dispel myths about Muslims.
Even though Nadir praised Tempe police for their work with the Muslim community, she said other factors still make many of the Valley’s 50,000 Muslims hesitate to fully trust law enforcement.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, many Muslims feared they were being profiled, monitored and investigated. And for Muslims like Nadir, who is African-American, there is also the concern of racial profiling.
“They (police) ask the questions about it, so that says to me they are concerned about it, too,” Nadir said of local police attending her workshops. “We are shaking hands across what could be a terrible barrier, but what is becoming more of a bridge.”
The professor started the free workshops in September thanks to a $1.5 million Sept. 11 Anti-Bias Project grant awarded to 19 groups nationwide. Tempe Police Department has mandated that all 95 civilian and sworn supervisors attend the workshops.
Other groups that have participated include the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Boswell Memorial Hospital, Scottsdale Unified School District, Arizona State University, Foundation for Senior Adult Living, city of Phoenix, Peoria police and Maricopa County Courts.
Every question she is asked at the sessions allows Nadir to show that Muslims share the same concerns and worries as other Valley residents. She welcomes complicated as well as routine questions about daily life.
“How do you work five daily prayers into work?” Waide asked Nadir.
“That is a good question,” replied Nadir, holding up a prayer rug. “It’s not necessary, but it makes for a portable, clean place to pray.”
Police need to be mindful that Muslim women may feel uncomfortable being questioned by a male officer alone in a room. Nadir suggested they consider having a woman officer do the questioning.
Nadir also passed out hijabs, or scarves, that many Muslim women use to cover their heads while out in public. She said officers need to understand it may take a few minutes before a Muslim resident greets them when they make a house visit.
“If there is a woman in the home, she may need time to cover up,” Nadir told officers.
Waide served 2½ years in the Air Force in Turkey, which is nearly 100 percent Muslim. As head of Tempe’s Crime Prevention Unit, Waide said he looks forward to working with the city’s Muslim community as he has with the Jewish community.
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