Suffolk County’s new police commissioner met Thursday with area Muslim leaders concerned about rising anti-Islam sentiment nationwide and told them his department will protect their communities.
“We’re here to further build upon our relationship,” said Suffolk County Deputy Commissioner Tim Sini during a news conference with the Muslim leaders at police headquarters in Yaphank. “This is a particularly appropriate time to call this meeting in light of some of the national rhetoric” directed toward Muslims.
Earlier Thursday, Sini met with about 25 members of Suffolk’s Muslim community to discuss their safety concerns and the possible development of a private electronic messaging system so the police department can communicate with them directly. Sini said the department will also step up patrols around mosques and Muslim schools.
Mohamed Sameen, a physician from Mt. Sinai, said his 7-year-old daughter goes to school wearing a hijab — a traditional head scarf worn by Muslim women and girls — and is called a terrorist by other students because they may feel threatened by her.
“She comes back and she feels threatened,” he said.
Similar anti-Muslim rhetoric on Long Island and nationwide is at “much higher levels than 9/11,” said Hafiz Rehman, a member of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission who also attended the meeting with Sini.
“It has definitely frightened the community,” he said. “Women are afraid to go out, children are afraid to go out, even the men.”
Rehman called anti-Muslim rhetoric “very un-American.”
“We are law-abiding citizens of this country and we’ve had excellent relationships with the police, all law enforcement agencies, and it will continue to be like that,” he said.
Other ideas discussed included having Suffolk police officers hold seminars on how to prevent Muslims, particularly women, from being victims of crimes.
In addition, Sini said, a liaison will be added to the department’s hate crimes unit to give the Muslim community a direct point of contact.
“This was a great way to highlight our solidarity with the Muslim community,” Sini said of the meeting.