A national Islamic advocacy group says an emergency preparedness drill targeting a simulated mosque in this small community wrongly typecast Islamic houses of worship as security threats.
“It really was in poor taste, probably as a result of a lack of cultural prowess on the part of the person who made that choice,” Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Chicago chapter, said Wednesday.
Rehab said he has no reason to believe the exercise was meant to be malicious, but it still perpetuates a stereotype linking all Muslims to terrorism.
Officials from almost 30 government agencies participated in the drill last week in Irving, which is 7 miles northeast of Hillsboro in Montgomery County.
According to the Hillsboro Journal-News, the May 1 exercise converted the Continuing Recovery Center into “Irving Mosque,” described as “the home-base for a radical, heavily armed group with suspected terrorist ties.”
The drill involved simulated explosions, hostages — including one hooked up to an explosive device — and nerve gas, causing both the Illinois Secretary of State bomb squad and the Montgomery County HazMat team to respond. Special forces from the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System also emerged from an armored car and stormed the “mosque,” the Journal-News reported.
“Officials must be trained in dealing with hostage-taking and responding to chemical, biological or bomb attacks,” Rehab said in a news release his agency sent out Tuesday. “We are only questioning the wisdom of linking the American Muslim community and its institutions to such incidents.”
Rehab said Wednesday the Washington D.C.-based national CAIR headquarters alerted his office after learning about the drill.
Montgomery County Undersheriff Rick Robbins reportedly was in charge of setting up the particulars of the exercise.
Contacted Wednesday, Robbins asked to see a copy of CAIR’s release. He indicated the sheriff’s office plans to make a statement later this week. (MORE)