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In a display of political correctness, San Jose, Calif.’s police chief has promised to observe the Muslim month of Ramadan.
Chief Rob Davis told the San Jose Mercury News that he was inspired after speaking to 7,000 Bay Area Muslims last year at the end of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting.
He will join local Muslims in going without food and drink from sunrise to sunset during the monthlong observance of Ramadan because he realized during his speech that they were hungry when he was not.
He said they were celebrating an experience he knew nothing about.
“It just dawned on me,” he recalled. “If I am truly going to understand the nuances of this religion, I should join them in this fast.”
During Ramadan, Davis said, he plans to break the fast each night with a different Muslim family, who will be invited to dine at his home.
The newspaper reported that the chief’s decision “carries enormous weight with Muslims, who remain worried about racial profiling, continued backlash from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks” and a recent fatal police shooting of a Bosnian Muslim outside a coffee shop in San Jose.
“It is a remarkable gesture,” James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C., told the News. “The fact that a major law enforcement figure in the country is making this gesture will help bridge some of the gaps in this country.”
The chief, a Mormon, told the News his decision to observe Ramadan is not motivated by politics or publicity but by a desire to “truly understand.”
Davis made the commitment when he was the deputy police chief and now, as the chief, he believes fasting can help him connect with a community that is growing in the area.
“Everyone needs to know that the chief is the chief for everybody — not just the majority, not just for those in power,” Davis, 47, said. “I need to be a chief for everybody, particularly for those who’ve felt marginalized.”
Abraham Ra’oof, a patrol officer with the San Jose Police Department and one of at least two Muslim officers on the force, told the News he was not surprised by the chief’s decision.
“He’s a man open to every religion, to every ethnic group,” said Ra’oof, an eight-year veteran of the force. “If he wants to try it out for his own personal reasons, I think it’s outstanding.”
Fasting for Ramadan, he said, is a sacred expression of dedication and for “God’s pleasure.”
Leaders in law enforcement and the Muslim community told the News they have never heard of a police chief fasting for the entire month.
Last year, however, the highest-ranking police officer at Britain’s New Scotland Yard did fast … for a single day.
(Posted on October 14, 2004)