The meeting, organized by State Assemblyman David McDonough, comes in response to an uptick in Islamophobia directed at the Island’s Muslim community after terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California, Orlando, Florida, and most recently in New York and New Jersey over the past two years, the LI Herald newspaper reported.
"This is not a political event,” McDonough, a Republican from North Merrick, said, noting that members of the Muslim community should "feel comfortable reaching out to law enforcement” for any reason.
The forum featured a panel of more than a dozen federal, state and local law enforcement officials, among other government representatives. Leaders of Long Island’s Muslim community had the chance to ask questions on topics ranging from the role of law enforcement in their neighborhoods and places of worship to cultural-sensitivity training for law enforcement personnel and racial profiling. Roughly, 60 Muslim leaders attended.
FBI agents and Nassau and Suffolk County police pleaded with Muslim leaders to come to them with any problems that they might face, not just with information about ongoing investigations. Officials emphasized that they could come to them with any complaints about racial profiling and rude behavior by law enforcement personnel.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron assured members of the community that no issue was too small to bring to his department’s attention. "It’s no bother, don’t wait and try to justify it,” he said. "Please come to us.”
Nassau County Police Chief Steven Skrynecki expressed a similar sentiment. "There is nothing more important than an open dialogue,” he said. "No doubt, there is Islamophobia. Please feel free and comfortable to come to us. We need you to come to us. If you know something, say something.”
Islamic Center Trustee Seemi Ahmed wondered about racial profiling by law enforcement. "The community is really concerned,” she noted.
Nassau’s acting police commissioner, Thomas Krumpter, was quick to denounce such tactics. "We don’t tolerate profiling,” he insisted. "Report it immediately.”
FBI Special Agent Gregory Ehrie said, "We don’t have the time for profiling. It’s not productive.” From his side, Director of the Masjid Al-Baqi Mosque in Bethpage Mufti Mohammad Farhan, raised concerns about the level of cultural sensitivity training that police officers receive, especially older members of the force. Commissioner Cameron said the level of sensitivity training that his officers are receiving in Suffolk is "unprecedented.”
Commissioner Krumpter noted that contractual restrictions limit the amount of training that older officers can receive in Nassau. "We would like to do more,” he said.
Chief Skrynecki praised Farhan for providing such training for Nassau police. "It really pays huge dividends,” he said.
"The only way we can overcome this quagmire of bigotry and racism is to communicate and to do it right,” Chaudhry said, "which means talking with government and law enforcement personnel.”