CAIRO - An Ontario school has organized a daylong event in which it hosted members of Canadian police, hoping to enhance relations with police forces and drive out misconceptions related to the religious minority.
It's a good opportunity for the Muslim community to bridge the gap between the community and police, Yousef Kfaween, the school principal, told The Hamilton Spectator on Wednesday, December 14.
The daylong event at the school inside the Hamilton Mosque was the first of its kind in Ontario. Similar programs run in British Columbia.
At the event, about 50 students from Hamilton and Niagara were split into four groups.
Each group ran through a fitness test, drills, forensics and drugs classes.
Other students got a look at a police dog and horses in action.
The kids showered the police with questions about everything from how they catch bad guys to the weight of their equipment.
The visit by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is not the first as they visited the school last year as a part of a different outreach program.
Planning to start a junior police academy, they went for Hamilton Muslim school with the aim of building on their already established relationship.
The RCMP also wants to attract more diverse groups of recruits. In particular, Muslim women are under-represented.
Muslims make around 1.9 percent of Canada's some 32.8 million population.
Their number has increased dramatically over the last decade and Islam has become the number one non-Christian faith in Canada.
A survey has showed the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian.
Attending the event, 11-year-old student Nadar Azabi found it a great opportunity to correct misconceptions he had about police officers.
After going through the RCMP junior police academy, Azabi said he realized police are normal people, who have an important job to do.
Ola Elsharif, 10, said her favorite class of the day was forensics, where officers used special equipment to copy a shoe imprint off a tabletop.
Like Azabi, the young girl used to think police were mean, but the event changed her mind.
It was so exciting, and so cool that we're the first school in Ontario, she added.
Not only Muslim students.
The event also helped police officers to drive out misconceptions they had about the Canadian Muslim minority.
There are many misconceptions about the faith of Islam and Muslims in the community, not (unlike) the police, said RCMP community outreach Sergeant Derek McDonald.
The day was also hoped to strengthen a Canadian-Muslim identity for the youths, said Kamran Bhatti, a spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Hamilton and board member for the North American Spiritual Revival, an event sponsor.
An event like this, they'll never forget, he added.