Tulsa Mosque Holds Appreciation Day Amid Police Controversy

Friday, March 4th 2011, 6:29 pm
By: News On 6

Lacie Lowry, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Surrounded by controversy at first, The Islamic Society of Tulsa's law enforcement appreciation day was a huge success Friday.

Last month, a Tulsa police captain refused to order his officers to attend this event and was transferred as a result. Captain Paul Fields has now filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming his first amendment rights were violated when he was ordered to attend.

2/25/2011 Related Story: Tulsa Police Say No Resolution In Islamic Society Event Controversy

Local Muslims weren't sure how many officers would show up Friday and were pleasantly surprised.

Friday's prayer service at the mosque in Tulsa was one of the most visual opportunities for officers like Cleon Burrell to learn about the Muslim community.

"You get the opportunity to meet different kind of people, different religions. You cannot turn down that opportunity," he said.

But one police captain did just that and refused to attend this law enforcement appreciation day. Captain Paul Fields said it conflicted with his personal religious convictions.

Everyone has their own belief and that's part of America. You have the right to choose what you believe, what you don't believe in, "Burrell said.

Sergeant Aly Maurer chose to attend, saying she wanted to experience a culture she knows very little about.

"This area is my squad and my squad came because to us this is just another opportunity to interface in the city of Tulsa," she said.

The Islamic Society invited police, the sheriff's office and the District Attorney to thank them after a man made a threat against the mosque and the Muslim community last fall.

"It was an ongoing threat for a long time and the police, sheriff, D.A. all worked together with us collaboratively, cooperatively, and very selflessly. We were truly touched," Sheryl Siddiqui, Islamic Society of Tulsa, said.

More than 100 officers came to the meet and greet with local Muslims. Siddiqui says she holds nothing against Captain Fields for not showing up.

"He was one of the people who was out here night after night, during the threat, watching out for our building and our community. So we only can say thank you to him," she said.

Captain Fields has his next federal court hearing on March 29, 2011, for the lawsuit he's filed against his superior.  He's asking for $1 in damages.