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Boro Muslims honor cops for efforts after Sept. 11

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In the days and weeks after Sept. 11, mosques and Islamic institutions across the borough frequently were under the surveillance of police officers stationed prominently to deter any bias incidents in retaliation for the terrorist attacks.

Nearly eight months later, Muslim leaders from a Woodside mosque finally said thanks for the New York Police Department’s watchful eye and vigilant service in a ceremony Monday night.

“In these troubled times, the police officers and the community of law enforcement was very supportive of the Muslim community here,” said Syed Sayeed, a Bronx resident who delivers sermons at the Friday services of Mosque Fatima, at 57-16 37th Ave. in Woodside. “We felt it’s only reasonable and important that the feeling of cooperation and support that has pervaded in this time be recognized publicly.”

The modest ceremony, held at the Dhaka Club and Restaurant on 37th Avenue — which first opened only days before Sept. 11 — was sponsored by the Islamic Center of Queens and the Islamic Tanzeem of New York.

Although only two police officers were able to appear at the ceremony, the community presented awards for six members of the NYPD: Capt. Terrence Riley, the executive officer of the 115th Precinct in Jackson Heights; Police Officer Sean Downes of the 115th Precinct; Assistant Chief James Tuller, the commanding officer of Patrol Borough Queens North; Capt. Douglas Rolston, the commanding officer of the 108th Precinct; Capt. Michael Bryan, who until recently headed the 108th Precinct; and Detective Glenn Yule, a community affairs officer at the 108th Precinct.

Officer Ravi Malhotra accepted the award for Downes, who was also named the 115th Precinct’s Officer of the Year but was away on vacation.

In addition to praising the work of the NYPD, Muslim leaders encouraged the 50 or so people in attendance to play an active role in their communities to ensure they take full advantage of the nation’s democratic government.

“You must get involved in the political process and correct it when it goes wrong,” he said Gazi Khankan, the executive director of the Manhattan-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. “You are making the Muslim community marginalized because you are not on the voting rosters.”

He also clarified some misconceptions about the Islamic faith, explaining that the term “jihad” often translated as “holy war,” literally means “to strive to do one’s best,” and explained that the Quran, the faith’s holy book, allows people to fight only in self- defense, not aggression.

In response to critics who contend Islam subjugates women, he pointed out that the heads of government for three of the world’s largest Muslim countries have been women.

“If women are so oppressed, how could they be so in the front as leaders of Muslim peoples?” he asked.

From those in attendance, the ceremony offered ready examples of Muslim people who are actively participating in the community as emergency services personnel, such as Police Sgt. Tracy Talib Monk of Rosedale and Firefighter Kevin James, who is president of the Islamic Society of Fire Department Personnel.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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