Officer Muzaffar Siddiqi established a police communications relationship with Houston’s growing Muslim community in the year 2000, even prior to 9-Eleven, a tragic event that prompted a growing awareness of the religion and its practices.
Today Siddiqi is but one of the department’s full-time community liaison officers who develop sources and lines of communications to hopefully prevent the most dreadful conditions in the wake of a major tragic event – miscommunications and misunderstandings.
Siddiqi keeps close tabs on leaders of immigrants from Midwestern and south Asian countries, including India, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Qatar. He estimates their numbers to be between 250,000 and 300,000.
He recently told the Badge & Gun that he estimates that about 30 Houston police officers practice the Muslim faith.
Siddiqi feels confident that if any suspicious characters with long rifles, bombs or other dangerous weapons were known in a Houston Muslim community, the community leaders would know what action to take.
“They would call 911 right away or call me,” he said with the confidence of someone who has built – and continues to build – relationships that began almost two decades ago. “We meet with the communities regularly,” he said. “I go to a different mosque on a regular basis. They (Muslim leaders) know the city is with them. There is good communications between the department and the community.
“It is one of the best community relationships we have.”
Siddiqi reported that the Vera Institute of Justice in New York had recognized that HPD has one of the best relationships with the Muslim community among the nation’s big-city departments.
The officer, much lauded over the years for his work, cited the fact that he has had 100 percent support from the department and each of its chiefs since the community relationship began.
He said recently retired Chief Charles McClelland intensified the department’s effort to learn more about the Muslim community and met with community leaders on site as often as his schedule would allow. It was McClelland, Siddiqi said, who initiated the community bus tours for police cadets as part of the academy’s curriculum.
The officer explained that there are many meeting venues, such as the multi-culture center on Hillcroft and the Chinese Community Center, just to name a few, where he, other officers and command staff members have been to community meetings.
Another source of pride for this special liaison officer is the fact that HPD is the only department in the world with crime prevention handbooks in 15 different languages, a project he initiated almost 10 years ago.
Today, Siddiqi reports that “there’s no issue” between Houston police and the Bayou City’s Muslim community – “not a major issue, thank God. There was a concern when the open carry law went into effect.”
“Chief Dirden talked to the leadership and we talked about open carry. It’s an example of addressing any issue right away. That’s why we don’t have any kind of issue right now with the Muslim community.”