A new book by Dr. Tony Gaskew, assistant professor of criminal justice, helps law enforcement officials better understand Muslim communities following Sept. 11, 2001.
“Policing Muslim American Communities” will be released this week by Edwin Mellen Press.
The book studies the impact of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, which gave law enforcement greater authority to search telephone, e-mail, medical, financial and other records of U.S. citizens. Gaskew examines how passage of the act affected the Muslim communities’ relationship with law enforcement, which is seen as key to preventing future terror attacks.
“This book is a one-stop shop for law enforcement who want to increase their understanding of Islam and Muslims in America,” said Gaskew, who wrote the book to be “very readable” for people from all disciplines.
“The first couple of chapters are very personal,” he said. “I share my thoughts and feelings as a law enforcement agent during the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It’s very practical.”
Gaskew served 18 years as a professional law officer and served in both the U.S. military and as a detective assigned to an Organized Crime Task Force in Florida. He became interested in the relationship between law enforcement and Muslim communities following 9/11, making it the subject of his doctoral research.
As part of that research, Gaskew lived in the Muslim community of Orlando, Fla., for 16 months and has traveled to and interviewed Muslims in Israel and Egypt.
“Muslim communities were invisible to law enforcement until Sept. 12,” he said, and then law enforcement was unprepared to work with the communities in a positive way.
Gaskew’s book explains not only the basics of Muslim beliefs, but also the nuances of different sects, nationalities and ethnicities within Islam – something he says has not been well understood by law enforcement.
“The USA PATRIOT Act negatively impacted the relationship between the Muslim American community and law enforcement,” Gaskew said. “You can never underestimate the effect of shame and humiliation. This is a very fragile balance between respect and enforcement.”