Police officers and other government officials gathered in Hollywood on
Wednesday to learn about the Arab, Muslim and Sikh cultures. Since Sept.
11, 2001, the Community Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Justice
has sponsored hundreds of forums to help law enforcement and communities
This was the first of its kind in Broward County. Law enforcement officials
say as they work to protect the country from terrorism, they need the
communities' help and can't trample on their civil rights.
Police officers said they are now better equipped to do their job.
''Knowledge is power,'' said Collier County investigator Daniel Wheless,
who said he learned that he shouldn't put anything on top of a Quran, the
holy book for Muslims. ''Anything I can learn will help me do the job better.''
About 70 police officers and other government workers gathered at Hollywood
Beach Community Cultural Center Wednesday, and many plan to take the
lessons they learned back to their departments.
Cosponsors included the Hollywood Police Department and the Asian-American
Advisory Board of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board.
A repeated refrain at the seminar: If police officers aren't familiar with
a community, they can't serve it. There are about 40,000 Muslims and 500
Sikh families in South Florida, according to advocates for the two groups.
Presenters included Preetmohan Singh, national director for the Sikh
Mediawatch and Resource Task Force, and Lobna ''Luby'' Ismail, president of
a company called Connecting Cultures Inc., both of the Washington, D.C.,