Update, 17 August: Police training by Islamophobe canceled
Three Chicago-area police departments canceled a planned training by notorious Islamophobe Sam Kharoba, CAIR-Chicago announced last night.
CAIR-Chicago commended the Lombard, Highland Park and Elmhurst police departments for canceling the training and “thanked the dozens of callers from the community, as well as partner coalition members from the Jewish, African-American and Latino communities, who expressed outrage at the trainings and support for CAIR’s outreach efforts.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced last year that it had terminated known-Islamophobe Sam Kharoba from his post as instructor of counterterrorism training programs for local police officers.
Since then Kharoba has maintained a low profile. But last week, Kharoba’s name popped up again, this time in Illinois. In the coming weeks, Kharoba is scheduled to conduct at least two Islamic terrorism courses for Elmhurst and Highland Park police departments in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.
But the Council on Arab-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is pressuring law enforcement in that state to cancel Kharoba’s training program. However, the director of North East Multi-Regional Training (NEMRT)—the regional department responsible for hiring Kharoba—doesn’t appear likely to budge.
NEMRT is an organization that provides “in-service training to law enforcement and corrections personnel throughout the metropolitan Chicago land area” and to police forces in Wisconsin and Indiana. Its advisory board includes a number of area police chiefs, including Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.
“Counterterrorism” cottage industry
Kharoba belongs to the cottage industry of “counterterrorism” professionals that has flourished since 9/11. Made up of private individuals and companies posturing as experts in “Islamic terrorism” that conduct training programs, they have collected millions of dollars through Department of Homeland Security federal grants distributed lavishly and with little oversight until 2011.
As an exhaustive investigation by the Political Research Association documented, the courses’ curriculum is made of little more than Islamophobic myths and anti-Muslim fear-mongering, including the well-worn and invalidated canons of the industry such as the “radicalization” theory and threat of “encroaching sharia” — Islamic law — in US courtrooms.
Fraudulent expertise and plagiarism
Kharoba, one of many such “experts, ” authored a training manual titled, A Law Enforcement Guide to Understanding Islamist Terrorism, 79 percent of which was found to be plagiarized from Wikipedia articles, according to a 2012 analysis by CAIR.
Furthermore, his manual relies heavily on the writings of Serge Trifkovic, Robert Spencer and Bat Ye’or, all of whom are prominent figures in the anti-Muslim circle of pseudo-experts and, notably, repeatedly cited in Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik’s “2083 Manifesto”.
In a 2011 The Washington Monthly expose of Kharoba and his nefarious teachings conducted throughout Florida, he is documented as telling his class:
“When I look at the life of Muhammad, I get a very nasty image,” going on to describe Muhammad as “a pedophile, a serial killer, a rapist”.
“Anyone who says that Islam is a religion of peace…is either ignorant or flat-out lying.”
And then going on to expressly advocate for the “legal harassment” of “these people”:
“ ‘Look at the owners of convenience stores. Corner stores are one of the principal ways Hezbollah launders money in the United State’s,’ he said. (The claim is not true.) ‘You only need one precedent… Health inspectors, alcohol trade officers, these guys can turn a convenience store upside down without a warrant.’ ”
CAIR campaign ended Florida trainings
Florida paid Kharoba to hold at least 20 such counterterrorism training courses for local law enforcement agencies before finally pulling the plug on him in 2012 in response to a concerted information campaign led by CAIR’s Florida chapter.
In an interview, Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director of CAIR’s Chicago chapter, told this blog, “There was a nationwide trend in which people with little expertise were contracted to train police forces. When our organization stepped in to raise a red flag and cite the problematic backgrounds of these trainers there were mixed reactions, but overall there was recognition that this was problematic.”
Loose local standards
In 2011, after years of lining the pockets of these pseudo-experts on Islam and counterterrorism, the federal government finally reformed its standards for contracting out to private companies. In its publication of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Training: Guidance and Best Practices, the DHS implemented a stricter set of standards for trainers hired with federal funding.
Corey Saylor, CAIR’s National Legislative Director, told me that the federal government’s reform has been successful, “So far we have not received any reports that those reforms did not work in the military or the Department of Justice.”
However, those federal reforms do not prevent state and local law enforcement from contracting with these questionable “experts”.
“At the state level there has been no such reform, and the federal government can’t tell the state who to use or not use at the local level.” Therefore, if Illinois can find the funds to pay Kharoba, NEMRT is able to hire him.
“Since 2011, a lot of [the experts] don’t advertise themselves the way they used to, they’ve gone a little underground,” explained Saylor.
Last week was the first time Saylor and Rehab had heard of Kharoba conducting any training classes since Florida cut ties with him last year.
“Kharoba confuses and befuddles the line between terrorism and Islam. Much of his training is saying Islam itself is a problem,” Rehab emphasized to me.
Head of training firm defends hiring Islamophobe
Despite this record, Phil Brankin, the director of North East Multi-Regional Training, sees nothing wrong with hiring Kharoba to teach local officers.
In an interview with me, Brankin was eager to find out if I was associated with an “Islamic organization” and, especially after learning that I write for outlets such as The Electronic Intifada and Al Jazeera English, was very reticent to speak to me about Kharoba. But when I probed him on Kharoba’s background he responded:
“The truth is the truth. Sam Kharoba teaches materials that I have looked at, I think the materials he teaches are relevant and applicable to training police for counterterrorism. You don’t have to agree with anything, this is a free nation and we aren’t under Sharia law yet, so we can still talk about the good and bad of Islam.”
On why his department thought they needed to hold a training course on “Islamic terrorism,” Brankin said:
“We planned this training because we want officers to have counterterrorism preparation for all sorts of terrorists. From what I read, the vast majority of terrorist attacks in this country are motivated by Islam and everything I see and read the vast majority of terrorist attacks in this world are motivated by Islam. I think officers and citizens need to be aware of the good and bad points of this religion and all other religions, so we are prepared to live our life in freedom and safety.”
I then asked him to comment on the fact that even the US Department of Homeland Security has been critical of police departments being trained by instructors who malign the entirety of the Islamic religion.
“How many people were killed this week in Egypt? How many Christians were killed in Nigeria? You want to have the DHS tell you about those attacks? Police officers need to know about the Islamic tenets, and if that offends someone in the Islamic community, well that’s too bad.”
I asked him, what are those tenets?
“You probably need to study the Quran.”
Brankin did not wish to disclose to me any details of what Kharoba planned to teach this month. But according to a description of the training on the NEMRT’s website, “The emphasis will be on assessing and evaluating terrorist threats,” and will include:
- Identification of Islamist Militant groups and individuals
- Law abiding Muslims, fanatical observers, and terrorist sympathizers
- Proactive strategies to prevent Islamist terrorist threats
- Information collection and use
- Terrorist financing operations, fraud, and charitable operations
- Terrorist covert communication channels/cyber intelligence operations
- Jail, school, and prison presences
- Recruitment activities
Rehab told me that, “Our expectation is the police departments will drop Kharoba because that’s what we’re going to ask for and we won’t settle for anything else.”
Whether or not Kharoba’s trainings will be given a second life in Illinois remains to be seen, but Brankin’s sparse interview makes it is clear that the only worrisome “tenets” being proselytized are not those of Islam, but Islamophobia.