Herald Sun: Police told to respect traditions [ 25oct05 ]
Police told to respect traditions
Liam Houlihan, religious affairs reporter
POLICE are being advised to treat Muslim domestic violence cases differently out of respect for Islamic traditions and habits.
Officers are also being urged to work with Muslim leaders, who will try to keep the families together.
Women's groups are concerned the politically correct policing could give comfort to wife bashers and keep their victims in a cycle of violence.
The instructions come in a religious diversity handbook given to Victorian police officers that also recommends special treatment for suspects of Aboriginal, Hindu and Buddhist background.
Some police officers have claimed the directives hinder enforcing the law equally.
Police are told: "In incidents such as domestic violence, police need to have an understanding of the traditions, ways of life and habits of Muslims."
They are told it would be appreciated in cases of domestic violence if police consult the local Muslim religious leader who will work against "fragmenting the family unit".
Islamic Women's Welfare Council head Joumanah El Matrah called the guidelines appalling and dangerous.
The guide also advises officers not to hold interviews with Aboriginal suspects or set court hearings during Aboriginal ceremonies involving "initiation, birth, death, burials, mourning periods, women's meetings and cultural ceremonies in general".
They are told to interview Baha'i suspects only after sunset in the fasting month.
And they are cautioned that when a Sikh is reading the Sikh Holy Script -- a process that normally takes 50 hours -- "he should not be disturbed".
The 50,000 handbooks instruct police to take shoes off before entering Buddhist and Hindu houses and mosques, and remove hats before entering or searching churches.
They are warned that taking photos or samples from Aboriginal suspects could raise fears they could be used for sorcery and spiritual mischief.
Australasian Police Multicultural Advisory Bureau head Gerard Daniells, who created the 82-page full-colour handbook, said common sense would prevail over the guide in an emergency.
Mr Daniells said the next edition would include Maori spiritual beliefs and practices.
The glossy guides would have cost at least $300,000 to produce, a printing industry expert said.
Police Association secretary Paul Mullet said members had an appreciation of different cultures but their overriding concern was for safety of the community.