After Spencer Ackerman at Danger Room helped expose the FBI’s extensive use of inaccurate and offensive training materials, the Bureau invited experts from the Army’s Combating Terrorism Center at West Point to review all of their resources and help remedy the problem.
The review hasn’t concluded yet, but so far the investigation has uncovered over 700 pages of documents and over 300 presentations characterized by one of four criteria: “factual errors”; “poor taste”; using “stereotypes”; or containing information that “lacked precision.”
The update about the review came at a meeting between FBI director Robert Mueller and a host of Arab and Muslim advocacy groups and religious leaders.
While it’s troubling to hear about just how deep the problem with FBI training material ran, it’s encouraging to see such commitment to fixing it. The FBI’s actions set an example for law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies around the country who are similarly the targets of unscrupulous, anti-Muslim “experts” who sell misleading training resources.
Recent developments in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s attempts to move into a larger space have been met by fierce opposition, including an arson attack, illustrate the importance of the FBI’s change of course.
The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, which is responsible for investigating that very arson, is bringing in one of these anti-Muslim “experts” to train its officers in Muslim culture and terrorism. According to the Tennessean, the department is having Juan Guandolo, an activist who believes mosques are front groups for the Mulsim Brotherhood, give the training at World Outreach Church, a church whose pastor has publicly opposed the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s mosque.
I think these kinds of incidents are often the result of well-meaning local authorities not knowing any better. Drawing attention to the fact that these “trainers” have been rejected by major institutions like the FBI is an important step towards fixing the problem at all levels.
(H/T Islamophobia Watch, Think Progress)
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The New York Police Department and their commissioner Raymond Kelly have been in hot water the last few months for a series of controversies about training and surveillance decisions regarding Islam.
Adam Serwer sums up what we know already:
Last week, an NYPD internal strategy memo discovered by the Associated Press added one more line to this disturbing trend. The report documents a deliberate strategy of targeting Shiite Muslims across the Northeast based on their religion, including surveillance and covert infiltration of mosques that were not under investigation as specific threats.
The document is the clearest proof yet that the department was violating both city law and the FBI guidelines they claimed to be following, and it appears to disprove Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly’s public assurances that NYPD doesn’t make surveillance decisions based on religion and only goes “where leads take [them].”
As counter-terrorism experts have said time and time again, community partners are law enforcement’s most important ally in the fight against violent extremists. Unfairly casting suspicion on and violating the civil rights of our Muslim-American neighbors only erodes the trust necessary to catch terror plots before they are realized and feeds the extremists’ recruiting message that America is a hostile place for Muslims.
Rooting out these kind of counter-productive practices and messages is essential at all levels of law enforcement if we want to get this right.
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Controversial retired general and outspoken anti-Muslim evangelical Jerry Boykin has been invited to speak at the Ocean City, Maryland, mayor’s prayer breakfast. Boykin is infamous for calling for there to be no more mosques in America, smearing Islam as a totalitarian threat to the United States, and claiming that Islam is not protected under the First Amendment. Right Wing Watch has a litany of Boykin’s most extreme comments here.
People for the American Way is asking its members to write to Ocean City officials urging them to withdraw the invitation and find a different speaker:
I’m writing to express my concern over Jerry Boykin’s participation in the Ocean City Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast on Thursday. Boykin’s well-documented history of bigotry should make him ineligible for such a distinction, and his participation would send the wrong message about what Ocean City stands for.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Auburn Theological Seminary have also joined the call for Ocean City to chose a different speaker who better represents American values.
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When Lowe’s Home Improvement pulled its ads from TLC’s All-American Muslim show last month due to pressure from anti-Muslim bigots, hundreds of thousands of Americans publicly expressed their disapproval of this cowardly decision. While Lowe’s thought it would avoid controversy by withdrawing its ads, the vocal outcry sent an important message about the relative size of the broad majority of Americans who value interfaith cooperation and truth-telling and the small band of hateful extremists.
Despite strange right-wing claims to the contrary, no one ever argued that Lowe’s somehow didn’t have the “right” to pull its ads or that they should be forced to reinstate them against their will. Americans were simply voicing their opinions about the decision — the perfect example of how participatory feedback loops are supposed to work in a democratic capitalist system.
But to radical anti-Muslim organizations like ACT! for America, who sponsored a petition defending Lowe’s, this backlash was not only un-American, it was actually “the latest example of how radical Islam threatens, undermines and eventually destroys freedom.”
In an email update yesterday, ACT! tried to spin public opposition to Lowe’s decision as a threat “to the freedom a company has to make business decisions about when and where it will advertise.” Inventing revisionist realities, of course, is the only way to fit this data points into their grand “creeping sharia” conspiracy theory that <1% of the U.S. population is a) united in a coordinated plan to replace American law with Islamic theocracy and b) capable of tricking/forcing the remaining 99% of the country to do so.
None of this is particularly new or surprising, of course, but it’s a good reminder of exactly the kind of people the modern conservative movement (and presidential candidates) have increasingly elevated as “expert voices” on national security and religious issues.
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The New York Times editorial board has a strong message today for Lowe’s and Kayak, the two companies who admitted to pulling their advertisements from the TLC show All-American Muslim due to the manufactured “controversy” that it portrayed Muslims in too positive a light.
Both Lowes and Kayak deny that they were moved to act by [Florida Family Association head] Mr. Caton’s campaign, citing instead the show’s controversial nature and, in Kayak’s case, reservations about its quality. “All-American Muslim” may not be the best TV show, but the controversy was manufactured by one man. By appearing to bow to bigotry, the companies earned a self-inflicted black eye.
That these companies assumed caving to pressure was the way to avoid controversy says something important about national perceptions of Muslims’ social status in the U.S.. That this effort has backfired so spectacularly says something better about the reality of our interfaith and intercultural solidarity.
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