He doesn’t wear a badge or carry a gun, but he does wear a uniform and is considered a member of the city’s police service.
Musleh Khan is the Toronto Police Service’s newest Muslim chaplain, providing spiritual support for Muslim officers and acting as a liaison between police and the Muslim community.
“I’ve been doing this privately with some police officers before I even heard of what chaplaincy was,” says Khan, who is a religious studies teacher and guidance councillor.
Toronto Police couldn’t say exactly how many Muslims serve on the force.
“The amount of stress they deal with every day … they really need some emotional support,” says Khan, “Some of these police officers only find comfort in faith. So this is a bonus for them to say, ‘I’m the same faith as you. We can talk.’”
The Muslim chaplaincy role also serves as a community consultant, and Khan can be called on 24 hours a day to advise on cultural issues. The volunteer position amounts to about 15 hours a month.
“If they ever are confused about certain behaviours or rhetoric thrown out on behalf of Islam, I’d like for them to have someone authentic, that has studied the religion and can say, ‘Hey, I can explain this to you.’”
The chaplaincy program has been around since 1999 and currently has representatives from 15 different faiths. Muslim chaplains were introduced in 2007, and Toronto police say it’s vital to creating better relationships with the city’s diverse population.
“Any community that hasn’t historically partnered with us, there is always a learning curve on both sides,” says police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray. “Both Toronto police and the community need to learn about each other and need to find ways to work together.”
“The police [are] a part of your community,” he says. ”Engage with them, talk to them … Once the dialogue is open, voices are heard and issues are addressed.”
The Toronto Police Service has another opening for a chaplain from any faith group. There are currently no representatives from the Hindu or Sikh community.