NEW Wiltshire Police recruits have visited a Gorse Hill mosque as part of their cultural awareness training.

A total of 15 new police officers, plus two members of Victim Support, went to the Al-Habib Islamic Educational and Cultural Centre, in Chapel Street, yesterday where they listened to a presentation on Islam and sampled ethnic food.

It was part of two days of cultural awareness training, organised by the West Wiltshire Multi Faith Forum.

It also included a visit to a Sikh temple and talks about other faiths, including Hinduism and Rastafari-anism.

Shahid Khan, a sufi teacher at the mosque, who delivered the presentation in the male prayer room, said the visit aimed to build relations between the police and the Muslim community, giving officers a point of contact and greater understanding when dealing with a case involving Muslims.

He said: “Sometimes the police have a need to have someone from the community to help them with cases, so they need to speak to us to get assistance approaching families. “Once there’s this contact, they know who to come to to help them.” Mr Khan, who also explained the basics of Islamic law, said police were not asked to treat Muslims much differently, but reminded the recruits that they do not eat pork, in case they had to provide a meal for a Muslim in custody. He also said if a Muslim woman had to be searched by police, it should be done by a female officer.

Farzana Saker, the chairman of the West Wiltshire Multi Faith Forum, said: “It’s nice for the police to have some background of different faiths. That equips them to learn about the needs of individuals if they find themselves arresting people from a different faith or culture.

“And it also builds a relationship between the community leaders and the officers, so if they’re working in the area they can build relations, they know who to come to.”

PC Andy Parsons, one of the recruits, said: “It’s useful in a practical sense in terms of how we can be more understanding when we’re carrying out our duties.”

And PC John Kilburn said: “The practical side of things I found fascinating, issues of diet and issues of entering properties.”