Six police departments come together for first eastside Muslim safety forum

by: Joanna Small Updated:

After a number of hate crimes against Muslims in western Washington, eastside police departments came together with the Muslim community in an effort to prevent more crimes.

Tuesday night was the first “Muslim Safety Forum” at the Muslim Association of the Puget Sound in Redmond.

The sign outside MAPS was destroyed twice, just weeks apart.  The second incident occurred after it had been repaired and decorated with the handprints of community leaders.

The members of MAPS decided it was time to learn skills to protect themselves, which is how the forum idea came to light.

“The message that we’re sending out really is that we are all together,” explained Redmond Police Chief Kristi Wilson.

And that message—delivered by six different eastside police departments—is not lost on the people who feel most under fire.

“Certainly, things right now are pretty bad,” said Aneelah Afzali, who leads a new Muslim empowerment network at MAPS. “I think 2015 we had the highest record in hate crimes against Muslims or those perceived as Muslims in this nation’s history.

Azfali said there have been at least a dozen hate crimes against Muslims in the greater Seattle area in just the past six months.

“I’ve had people drive by, roll down their windows and scream obscenities, I’ve had that happen.  I have friends I know personally who have been physically assaulted and attacked,” Azfali said.

Realizing there is no way to stop the hate, much of Tuesday’s forum was focused on how to protect yourself when it happens, with police officers outlining how to report a crime and what to do in an active shooter situation.

The majority of the audience was Muslim. Uyen Nguyen is not, but she came tonight to learn about what it’s like to be Muslim.

“I think in order to truly help someone you need to understand where they’re coming from.  This is my first step of many,” Uyen told us.

Her second step: to feature the food from Syria at her international restaurant on Capitol Hill.

“Not only that but we’re trying to highlight some part of the Syrian culture,” Uyen said.

MAPS’ next event will be Sunday, when they’ll be hosting an interfaith youth forum.