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The Florida branches of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held a press conference on July 11 to condemn anti-terrorism training conducted and the anti-terrorism training manual, A Law Enforcement Guide to Understanding Islamist Terrorism, by Sam Khabora, as “factually erroneous and biased.”
The Tampa CAIR’s press conference – presented by Director Hassan Shibly- not only announced its rejection of Khabora’s statements and training but also stated that it has sent its concerns in a letter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
According to Shibly, trainings like Kharoba’s “makes our country less safe and less free.” Shibly went on to elaborate that the training makes us less free because it wastes police resources and time on training that is inaccurate, and that it makes Americans less free because it encourages the persecution of religion.
CAIR’s first concern was that Kharoba is not qualified to speak on the topic of Islam. Kharoba ‘s certifcation in the area of Islamic culture comes from an “Advanced Level General Certificate of Education in Arabic Culture” in the United Kingdom, which CAIR claims is the equivalent of an AP course in high school.
Additionally, CAIR pointed out at their press conference that much of the Islamic community in the United States is not of Arab descent. In fact, according to the US Department of State statistics in 2010 the majority of Arab Americans (two thirds) are Christian and the majority (up to one third) of Muslims in the United States are African-Americans.
Kharoba’s other claim to authority is that he lived in the Middle East for seventeen years. Shibly stated that letting Kharoba teach police based on this argument is like claiming that “any person who lives in America is qualified to talk about American history and Christianity in America.” In the letter to the FDLE, CAIR states, “Kharoba has neither the academic nor the operational background to qualify as a subject matter expert on either Islam or countering violent extremism.”
CAIR also cites other organizations, news agencies, and government officials who have rejected Kharoba’s training as biased and incorrect. The Washington Monthly March/April 2011 edition reported on Kharoba’s training in an article entitled “How We Train Our Cops to Fear Islam.”
The article clearly states several instances in which Kharoba makes sweeping generalizations about Islamic culture and Muslims including claiming that the Prophet Muhammad was a rapist, Islam is not a religion of peace, corner stores owned by Muslims are a way for Hezbollah to launder money, and wearing a headband is a sign of a martyr. According to the article Kharoba advocates for “legal harassment” in which police officers should identify Muslims in their neighborhoods and keep track of what activities they do and which properties they own.
In a similar article published in June of 2011 by the Broward Bulldog Kharoba’s teachings were “equate[d] to ethnic and religious profiling.” The article goes on to state that the US Department of Justice “have rejected such techniques as unconstitutional and discriminatory.”
According to CAIR, the Chairman and Ranking member of the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder that first quotes Kharoba and states, “these comments [from Kharoba], of course, are neither factually accurate nor consistent with our nation’s fundamental values and are not made by adequately trained personnel. It appears, however, that some of these so-called experts have neither the academic nor operational background in the material about which they train.”
An FDLE Spokesperson, Gretl Plessinger stated that the FDLE has received the letter and is reviewing the claims. She could not comment, yet, on how the FDLE will address the concerns as the facts and information must be re-examined. She also stated that Sam Kharoba is not certified as a trainer by the FDLE. Instead, he has been hired by individual training centers that the FDLE has certified. According to Plessinger, Kharoba has been used in the past as a counter-terrorism instructor and that they have received positive feedback from those who have taken the course.
CAIR also claims that the responses to the training law enforcement has received from Kharoba is “troubling.” One response that CAIR points out in particular is that an officer stated, “going to make sure we have completed surveys of existing ME/Muslim population and have a clearer understanding of their properties.”
Also speaking at the press conference was Bishop of the Apostolic Church and President of the Florida Council of Churches Chuck Leigh. Bishop Leigh castigated the training as “spending money on bigotry” that Kharoba’s alleged misrepresentations of Islam “offends the very heart of Christianity.” The Bishop went on to state, “I think God is offended by it.”
CAIR is the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the United States. Chapters of the non-profit organization can be found across the United States and work with local communities on education and outreach. Hassan Shibly, the Director of the Tampa CAIR chapter, stated that CAIR emphasizes preventative education because their philosophy is ignorance breeds hate.
CAIR also represents Muslims across the United States in discrimination cases and fights laws that are viewed as discriminatory toward the Islamic community. Currently there are about 40,000 Muslims who fall within the area of the Tampa CAIR chapter, and there are forty open cases of discrimination.