NORMAN — Local police are working to become more familiar with members of the diverse communities they are sworn to protect.

Muslim cultural awareness sessions were conducted for Norman police Tuesday, and police Lt. Eric Lehenbauer said more of the sessions are planned for Monday.

“I think as officers going out to provide law enforcement services, understanding those cultures is invaluable,” Lehenbauer said.

“Religion is something that goes very deep for all of us.”

‘As diverse as America’

Razi Hashmi, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations Oklahoma chapter, conducted Tuesday’s morning sessions for about 10 officers.

He discussed misconceptions about Islam and Muslims and told officers to remember that individuals do not represent nations or entire religions.

“We’re as diverse as America itself,” Hashmi said of Muslims.

He talked about the Quran and common myths about Muslims, including the misconception that Islam permits a man to beat his wife. When one officer asked if the Muslim community would help a victim of domestic violence, Hashmi said Muslim leaders take a stance against domestic violence.

Hashmi said the Council on American Islamic Relations’ goal is to secure “genuine trust” between the Muslim community and law enforcement by creating bridges of understanding between them.

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