Ensuring the Safety of Muslims in NYC During Ramadan

A meeting was held at NYPD headquarters to discuss the protection of Muslim houses of worship during Ramadan. (Photo by Ahmed Mourad via Al Hawadeth)

Protecting places of worship has become an urgent need that imposes itself on the agenda of the NYPD in 2019, especially after the series of terrorist attacks that have recently targeted mosques, churches and other places of worship worldwide.

The NYPD initiatives have been welcomed by several Muslim community leaders in NYC.

The NYPD invited leaders of the Muslim community to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan at the NYPD headquarters at 1 Police Plaza. The NYPD informed the leaders of the plans set to protect the Muslim community and the prayer congregations during the month of Ramadan, the time when Muslims observe their yearly religious rituals.

The celebration began with a warm welcome from James O’Neill, the police commissioner of New York. He spoke about the significance of the rights and freedom in American society. He said that he will not allow any violation of freedom of belief in NYC because that is against the U.S. Constitution. O’Neill emphasized the important and prominent roles that the Muslim community plays in NYC. After that, some videos were screened showing parts of the NYPD training focused on protection, justice and equality. Imam Khalid Latif recited verses from the holy Quran that speak about the month of Ramadan. The best video was later screened and it talked about the Muslim members of the NYPD and their roles and services for the Muslim community. It is worth mentioning that more than a thousand Muslims serve in the NYPD, and that has helped build communication channels between the Muslim community and the NYPD.

In his conversation with the journalists and the media, O’Neill said that he knows how important the congregational prayers are for Muslims during the month of Ramadan. He added that he had collaborated with traffic control officials to take that into account, especially during prayer times.

Muslims suffer from limited parking spaces near their mosques as well as from the small sizes of the mosques. This pushes some Muslims, sometimes, to pray on the street, which can jeopardize their safety. This issue encouraged some young Muslims to establish the Muslim Community Patrol (MCP) in order to protect Islamic places of worship and praying Muslims.

In light of this, Sami Uddin Razi, the founder of the MCP, presented information about the unit, its duties, and activities during a meeting at the Islamic Center of Staten Island [held shortly before Ramadan began]. Razi said that the attack on the New Zealand mosques doubled the calls to establish a unit for security in the different areas of NYC. He continued, “It is going to be a shame if we had to live another incident like that of New Zealand. Therefore, we have to work to present such crimes from now on through security units like the MCP.”

Razi added that the MCP was established with donations and operates on a volunteer basis. He stressed the importance of ensuring safety for every community and supporting such work with money, effort and time.

The Brooklyn borough president, Eric Adams, attended Razi’s talk and noted that the MCP will be a “symbol of the power” that the Muslim community has. He added that the Jewish community has similar patrols like the MCP.

Mohammed Khan, the coordinator for MCP, said that there are about 40 MCP volunteers currently, and there are efforts to increase them to 60, operating five patrol vehicles by the beginning of Ramadan. Khan added that MCP vehicles currently patrol in front of Muslim schools and mosques during the Friday prayers.

Alaa Mousa, an MCP volunteer, said that they operate without interfering with the duties of the NYPD. He noted that they work in collaboration with the NYPD and assist them. Mousa emphasized that they not only serve the Muslim community but also members of all other religious and racial backgrounds equally as a step forward to build bridges of love and respect among all communities.

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