Lobna Ismail, a Muslim woman in a veil, recently trained about 150 police and local government officials in dealing with ethnic stereotypes. Her presentation for police from the Washington area, sponsored by the U.S. Justice Department, is part of a new nationwide program to help law enforcement officials become more culturally sensitive to Muslims and Arabs.
Muslim and Arab American groups say that their communities have been unfairly singled out for monitoring and prosecution since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But the Washington Post say that the two sides “have quietly reached out to one another.”
The Justice Department will offer a police training video to raise awareness about Arabs and Muslims. Its officials have attended town hall meetings with Muslims and Arab Americans in Florida, Ohio and Michigan. In Washington and other areas, the FBI has set up committees with Arab and Muslim leaders to strengthen relations.
“There’s almost a dichotomy at the Justice Department between the political leadership and the professional staff,” said Jean AbiNader of the Arab American Institute. Career staffers are supportive, but the political leadership is not. Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo denied such a split.
Ismail’s morning-long presentation was sponsored by Justice’s Community Relations Service, a 47-person unit that calls itself a “peacemaker” in racial or ethnic conflicts. Its new program tries to help law enforcement officials who must respond to reports of hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs and solicit citizen cooperation in investigations.