NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Federal law enforcement officials tried to break down barriers with the Muslim community in Brooklyn on Saturday, with a special program designed to foster a culture of understanding.
When 17-year-old Bilal Amjad strapped on a bulletproof vest, he got more than just a feeling of security, reports CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown. He began to feel accepted.
“There’s a lot of stuff on the news, that Muslim people are all bad – but we’re not all like that,” Amjad said.
Amjad was one of several hundred Muslim youths attending a day-long, hands-on program with law enforcement agencies including the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, New York State Police and the NYPD.
Each side of the program was looking to break through stereotypes to keep communities together.
“A lot of law enforcement probably look at us in a bad way, but we’re not like that,” Amjad said.
“What we’re trying to do is to show them that they have opportunities in public service and government, and to show them the importance and respect that their faith has,” FBI Supervisory Special Agent Timothy Flannery said.
Many at the event said that too many times, the Muslim community and law enforcement officials interact only when reacting to a dangerous situation, and that has helped to foster tense relations.
“This is why we’re building these bridges – because we want to close those gaps where they law enforcement feels, ‘oh, these are Muslim kids, and perhaps they might be thinking something.’” Mohammad Razvi, executive director of the Council of Peoples Organization, said.
The program, he said, was an opportunity to bridge those gaps.
“These are Americans kids – they stand in front of this American flag and say, ‘we are Americans,’” Razvi said.
The event in Brooklyn was the first of its kind in the country, but organizers said they’re looking to expand to other areas soon, beginning with Washington, D.C.
More than 500 kids, and a dozen mosques and schools, took part in Saturday’s program.