Why a partnership between Muslims and law enforcement is so crucial to fighting terrorism

Source: The Washington Post

By Salam Al-Marayati and Michael Downing

This op-ed was jointly written by Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council and Mike Downing, deputy chief of counterterrorism at the Los Angeles Police Department.

The mass shooting in San Bernardino is growing in complexity with a terrorism component now added to the investigation. Once the dust settles and we try to move forward, a partnership between religious communities and law enforcement is crucial in helping prevent future incidents of terrorism.

A unique partnership between the Muslim community in Los Angeles and law enforcement was formalized after 9/11, one that could be replicated in communities across the country. Law enforcement leaders set up quarterly forums for the Muslim community to raise issues with the police, raising grievances or offering suggestions. Within any community, police gather intelligence, but a longer-term strategy rests on community engagement and dialogue.

We can’t prevent every case, including the shootings in San Bernardino. Law enforcement officials know they can’t arrest their way out of a larger terrorism problem. And Muslim leaders know they can’t just issue press releases condemning the problem for it to disappear.

Partnerships can be controversial. Some in law enforcement believe that inviting Muslims to the table is like inviting the fox to guard the hen house. And some the civil rights community believe that partnership endorses heavy-handed tactics against minorities. And then some in the Muslim community believe that the government only engages them when it involves national security.

No, a partnership won’t eliminate all potential for terrorism. But without help from local communities, law enforcement cannot deal with the problem of terrorism by only looking at the criminal side. Law enforcement must focus on a criminal component, while communities focus more on an ideological role, but the two go hand-in-hand.

A partnership between religious communities and law enforcement optimizes the forces fighting larger problems with violence and terrorism. Law enforcement officials must be able to identify what is Islamic within American Muslim communities, and what is terrorism that has nothing to do with any religion.

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