Activists call on Florida Department of Law Enforcement to ditch anti-Muslim training contractor
Thirty Muslim groups are asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to sever ties with one of their counter-terrorism trainers. Hassan Shibly, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, said Sam Kharoba teaches law enforcement officers to unfairly stereotype Muslims.
âKharoba claims radicals can be identified by ten to twelve physical markers such as headbands, types of facial hair or a prayer bump on the forehead from frequent contact with a prayer mat. One of our clients, they said the officer was investigating which hand he wore his watch on because according to Kharoba, this officer in Hillsborough County was trained that if a Muslim wears his watch on his right hand he must be an extremist. Itâs completely nonsensical.â
According to CAIR, Kharoba is an independent contractor who has been hired by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at least 21 times since 2005. He wrote a book called âA Law Enforcement Guide to Understanding Islamist Terrorismâ and uses it in his teachings. In the book, Shibly and other Muslim-rights advocates noted that Kharoba consistently described Islam as a faith based on violence and lies. After receiving hundreds of complaints from the Muslim community about police harassment from Hillsborough County deputies, Shibly and others stepped in. Many of those complaints involved officers who were trained by Kharaba.
âWhy are our tax dollars being used to pay an individual with no credentials or qualifications to train our law enforcement to fear and hate Islam and Muslims?â
And Thania Diaz Clevenger, civil rights director of the Tampa chapter of CAIR, said heâs not even qualified to train officers on Islamist counter-terrorism.
âKharoba has no actual experience in counter-terrorism operations nor does he have a degree even related to the subject or Islam.â
Shibly claims the CAIR investigation found that the FDLE has no formal requirements for hiring police trainers. Thatâs why someone like Kharoba, who has a degree in computer science, can get involved. Kharoba claims he has an advanced degree in Arab culture, but Shibly said as impressive as that sounds, itâs not really relevant.
âEven if you have the best degree in Arab culture, that doesnât relate to Islam or Muslims or counter terrorism. Secondly, that kind of degree is basically like an AP course. Itâs not the equivalent of a Bachelorâs Degree or even an Associateâs Degree, itâs high school level work that people do in preparation for college in the UK. So saying somebody like Sam Kharoba because â and he also claims he spent ten, fifteen years in the Middle East â well saying somebody like Kharoba is qualified as an expert to teach about Islam and Muslims in the Middle East is like saying any American that lives in America automatically is qualified to go abroad and teach other people as an expert on American history.â
And the outrage is spreading to people of other faiths too. Bishop Chuck Leigh, president of the Florida Council of Churches, compared what some law enforcement officers are doing to the actions of Nazi police forces. He said during that time, officers were first trained to identify Jews. He added that he doesnât mind officers getting training that sometimes seems silly, but this goes too far.
âBut when weâre spending our money for bigotry in these very difficult economic times, it is just wrong-headed isnât it?â
CAIRâs Shibly has been leading an effort to collect 87 public record documents from FDLE since November of last year. Now that the group has studied the information, Shibly said the findings upset him first as a human being and an attorney but last as a Muslim. And heâs not alone. Republican U.S. Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins wrote letters of concern regarding Kharobaâs teachings.
âThe letter quotes Kharoba and then says, the comments of his â of course â are neither factually accurate nor consistent with our nationâs fundamental values. Amazing. Why is the FDLE facilitating training for an individual who members of the Senate and Congress have already said his training are factually inaccurate and fundamentally contradictory to our values?â
The letter asks the FDLE for three things: stop hiring Kharoba to teach officers anything, re-teach officers who have studied under him and implement a set of guidelines in hiring instructors for officer training. FDLE did not respond to requests for interviews.
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