By Hannan Adely, Bergen Record
If a police officer pulls over a female driver wearing a veil covering all but her eyes, can he demand that she lift the veil so he can identify her?
Before a classroom of state police recruits, Mohammad Ali Chaudry, a Muslim scholar, explained that there's no religious reason for her to refuse. She has to obey the laws of her country "for everybody's security," he said.
Questions about the veil and other facets of Islamic faith and culture are at the heart of the one-hour class, now a requirement for every New Jersey state trooper, that emerged from anxiety and acrimony following news last year that New York City detectives were spying on New Jersey Muslims.
But is one hour of teaching, out of a solid week of police training, enough to markedly improve relations between police officers and wary Muslim communities across the state?
Chaudry, president of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge and a Rutgers professor, said it's a start.
One result of strong backlash to spying by the New York Police Department was the creation of the Muslim Outreach Committee, a group of about 20 Muslim leaders and top law-enforcement officials that began meeting a year ago. The training, which is included in classwork this week at the state criminal justice academy in Sea Girt, is one of several committee efforts aimed at building trust.
"When we first started, there was anger and hostility," said Imam Mustafa El-Amin, who heads the Masjid Ibrahim mosque in Newark. "Now it has actually developed to achievements and goals as opposed to just talking and airing out who's guilty and who's not." (Read the full article)