Liaison Strives to Bridge Police, Muslim Cultures

January 24, 2007

Author: Robin Shulman

Source: The Washington Post

At the headquarters of the New York Police Department, in a high-ceilinged, wood-floored room, Erhan Yildirim is speaking to a group of officers. As he lists facts about Islam, they crack their gum and tap their feet. Yildirim is slighter, shorter and snazzier -- in a sleek Turkish-made suit -- than most of his audience, and he speaks with a Turkish accent to their Brooklynese.

Yildirim, as the part-time civilian liaison of the NYPD to Muslims throughout the city, is a man assigned to bridge cultures.

Police liaison Erhan Yildirim, second from right, speaks with Sheik Ismet Hosny Akcin and other members of the Muslim community at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York. "I'm the PR," Yildirim says in explaining his part-time, civilian role. (By Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)

"I'm the PR," says Yildirim, and the PR goes two ways: At once, he is trying to redeem the name of the police department to Muslims and the reputation of Islam to police officers.

Of course, the misunderstandings may also go every which way, even for Yildirim, a funeral director by trade who may or may not have become conversant in cop talk but who also doesn't speak the languages of the majority of immigrant Muslims in New York.