Does course on Islam give law enforcers wrong idea?
Some local Muslim community members are upset about a training course for local law enforcement, saying it could promote stereotypes and...
Seattle Times religion reporter
Some local Muslim community members are upset about a training course for local law enforcement, saying it could promote stereotypes and ethnic and religious profiling.
The program, called "The Threat of Islamic Jihadists to the World" and conducted by a Miami-based company, began Thursday and continues today at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission campus in Burien.
It is billed as providing insight into the formative phases of Islam, the religion's different branches, radical Islam and how to respond to terrorist acts.
But Arsalan Bukhari, president of the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the program appears to be linking an entire religion to terrorism.
"Most police officers don't have a basic grounding in Islam, so before you teach them about Islam, how can you teach them about radical Islam?" he asked. "It just makes you nervous because when a law-enforcement person pulls someone over, when they see a Muslim person or someone who appears Muslim to them — all this information they just learned kicks in."
Bukhari believes the need for police training on issues of profiling and bias was highlighted by an incident last summer in which the FBI launched an international search for two men who took photos below deck on a Washington state ferry. The FBI announced earlier this month that the men were tourists, not terrorists.
Bukhari said law-enforcement agencies need to learn about Islam, but not just in the context of terrorism.
But Solomon Bradman, CEO of Security Solutions International, which is conducting the program, said, "I can't take the responsibility of my course linking their religion to terrorism. I think their religion got linked to terrorism a long time ago."
The purpose of the course, Bradman said, is to teach officers how to protect people from terrorism. His company has provided training to hundreds of agencies, including the FBI, the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security.
The two-day program covers some of the history of Islam to provide an "understanding of the terror mind-set and reasons for global jihad," Bradman said. It's not intended to be an all-inclusive course on Islam.
There are other organizations, such as CAIR, that have worked with law-enforcement agencies to provide that broader training, he said.
It's not unusual for police to get training in religious backgrounds when religious extremists are potentially causing violence, said Terri-Ann Betancourt, a spokeswoman for the Port of Seattle, which helped locate the venue for the program.
Port Police Chief Colleen Wilson met with local CAIR representatives and offered to have them come in to do additional training. Bukhari said CAIR intends to do so.
Port and Seattle police officers also agreed to debrief after the program to see if there was "anything in the session that was discriminatory or would cause alarm," Betancourt said. "If so, they would be happy to share that with other chiefs around the state.
"At this point, they haven't heard anything from others who've attended that would cause anyone to believe the Muslim community should be concerned about this training," Betancourt said.
Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or email@example.com
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