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September 17, 2011

FBI training material portrays Islam as an indicator of terrorist activity

By Abdus-Sattar Ghazali

The seven-million strong American Muslim community was shocked to know that the FBI has been using anti-Muslim instructors and Islamophobic materials in counterterrorism training. An article published on Wired on Wednesday revealed that the FBI training materials teach counterterrorism agents that mainstream American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers.


The seven-million strong American Muslim community was shocked to know that the FBI has been using anti-Muslim instructors and Islamophobic materials in counterterrorism training.

An article published on Wired on Wednesday revealed that the FBI training materials teach counterterrorism agents that mainstream American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers, that the Prophet Mohammed was a "cult leader," and that Islamic charitable giving is a "funding mechanism for combat."

Spencer Ackerman's article - FBI Teaches Agents: Mainstream Muslims are Violent, Radical' - points to specific material and provides detailed examples of the materials being used.

Ackerman pointed out: At the Bureau's training ground in Quantico, Virginia, agents are shown a chart contending that the more "devout" a Muslim, the more likely he is to be "violent." Those destructive tendencies cannot be reversed, an FBI instructional presentation adds: "Any war against non-believers is justified" under Muslim law; a "moderating process cannot happen if the Koran continues to be regarded as the unalterable word of Allah."

Ackerman quoted excerpts from dozens of pages of recent FBI training material on Islam that Danger Room has acquired. In them, the constitutionally protected religious faith of millions of Americans is portrayed as an indicator of terrorist activity, he added.

This was the second shocking news for the American Muslim community in as many months. The New York Times reported last month that the New York Police Department (NYPD) has carried out covert surveillance on Muslims with the help of the CIA. The NYPD has collected intelligence on more than 250 mosques and Muslim student groups in and around New York, often using undercover officers and informants.

Spencer Ackerman's article quoted Mike German's (ACLU) as saying: " Seeing the materials FBI agents are being trained with certainly helps explain why we've seen so many inappropriate FBI surveillance operations broadly targeting the Muslim-American community, from infiltrating mosques with agents provocateur to racial- and ethnic-mapping programs [...] Biased police training can only result in biased policing."

American Muslim and Arab organizations have expressed over the FBI's apparent dismissal of repeated calls from civil rights advocates to cease using any offensive, inaccurate, and inflammatory material about Islam and Muslims as part of its counterterrorism training.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) said despite past reassurances, the FBI has persisted in its practice of vilifying Islam and Muslim-Americans in its training material.  

ADC Legal Director Abed Ayoub stated, "It is disappointing that despite our efforts to encourage open community dialogue with government agencies, our work is undermined by the FBI's continuous use of questionable tactics, such as data mapping, infiltration of mosques with agents provocateur, and the continued use of unconstitutional surveillance operations. The FBI must act swiftly to remove any and all offensive, inaccurate, and inflammatory material." 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has sent a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller calling for "swift action" to reform the agency's use of anti-Muslim instructors and Islamophobic materials during counterterrorism training.

In its letter to Director Mueller, CAIR wrote in part: "We are concerned by persistent reports of FBI personnel receiving biased training about Muslims and Islam. We believe that just as good training results in good investigations, biased training will inevitably result in biased investigations.

"Last year, in partnership with nine organizations and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, we contacted you about a Joint Terrorism Taskforce (JTTF) training in Tidewater, Va., which featured notorious Islamophobe Robert Spencer. In a letter responding to our detailed concerns demonstrating Spencer's connection to hate groups, FBI Special Agent in Charge Alex Turner said, "[Spencer] was invited because of his reputation as a best-selling author.'

"Today, an article by Spencer Ackerman again demonstrates recent Islamophobic training being offered to your personnel, in this case by an individual employed by the agency as an intelligence analyst. Before being employed by the FBI, Mr. William Gawthrop, the analyst in question, had asserted his belief that "Muhammad's mindset is a source for terrorism."

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) condemned the bigoted statements made during their trainings about Islam and the state of the "mainstream" Muslim American community. "These harmful trainings are ineffective, immoral and counterproductive to the relationships we have developed and to  the identification of those who are truly out to harm the United States."

The MPAC also sent a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller asking for an immediate internal investigation into this matter and reassessment of the vetting process of trainers.

It may be recalled that Spencer Ackerman of the Danger Room reported last July, that the FBI was teaching new recruits about Muslims with a power point presentation that recommended they read anti-Islam books, according to a grainy copy of the PowerPoint obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union's Northern California chapter and the Asian Law Caucus, a San Francisco-based civil rights group.

The two groups filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year inquiring about government surveillance of American Muslim communities. The 62-page document, first reported by the Danger Room, was designed to help agents perform "successful interviews/interrogations with individuals from the Middle East."

Spencer Ackerman says as recently as January 2009, the FBI thought its agents ought to know the following crucial information about Muslims: (1) They engage in a "circumcision ritual." (2) More than 9,000 of them are in the U.S. military (3) Their religion "transforms [a] country's culture into 7th-century Arabian ways."

Ackerman went on to say that the FBI "recommended reading" about Islam included: (a) A much-criticized tome, The Arab Mind, that one reviewer called "a collection of outrageously broad -- and often suspect -- generalizations" (b) A book by one of Norwegian terrorist suspect Anders Behring Breivik's favorite anti-Muslim authors.

Tellingly, the books included on a "Recommended Reading" slide were The Politically Incorrect Guide To Islam and The Truth About Muhammad by anti-Muslim blogger Robert Spencer, who was cited 64 times by the Oslo massacre terrorist Anders Behring Breivik in his manifesto.

It may be recalled that Robert Spencer, who runs anti-Muslim Jihad Watch blog, is the co-founder of Stop the Islamization of America, which "promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda," according to the Anti-Defamation League. He is also one of the ringleaders of the protest against the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" in New York.

Another book cited is The Arab Mind, by Raphael Patai. The Racism Watch organization reported in June 2004 that Columbia University director of African American Studies, Manning Marable, had called for immediate action to be taken to end the U.S. military's use the book. This was followed by a surge of media interest in the book during the summer of 2004. The book was described by Guardian Newspaper correspondent Brian Whitaker as one that presents "an overwhelmingly negative picture of the Arabs." In an article in the New Yorker magazine, Seymour Hersh said that he was told by an academic that the book was "the bible of the neocons on Arab behavior." [Wikipedia] 

Authors Bio:
Author and journalist.
Author of
Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality;
Islam in the Post-Cold War Era;
Islam & Modernism;
Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America.
Currently working as free lance journalist.
Executive Editor of American Muslim Perspective: