(WASHINGTON, D.C., 9/21/11) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today joined a coalition of other civil rights and advocacy organizations in calling on the FBI to eliminate anti-Muslim bias from the system used to train its agents.
At a press conference this morning outside FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., CAIR and the other groups expressed concerns about persistent reports that FBI agents are trained to view mainstream American Muslims with suspicion and to view the faith of Islam itself as the source of terrorism and extremism.
News conference participants — including representatives of CAIR, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Defending Dissent Foundation, and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Council for Social Justice — called for internal reforms to deal with the issue.
Video: Coalition News Conference on FBI Use of Anti-Muslim Training
ICNA: Statement on FBI’s Biased Trainings on Islam and Muslims
NY Times: Islam Is More Ideology Than Religion, F.B.I. Analyst Says in Video
CAIR: F.B.I. Chided for Training That Was Critical of Islam (NY Times)
[UPDATE: In a statement issued today, the FBI says it is “conducting a comprehensive review of all training and reference materials that relate in any way to religion or culture.”]
FBI: Okay, Fine, We’ll Do Something About That Anti-Muslim Training
In a prepared statement released at today’s news conference, CAIR Legislative Director Corey Saylor said:
“The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is deeply troubled by persistent reports that the FBI employs biased trainers and materials to educate its agents. We believe that just as good training results in good investigations, biased training will inevitably result in biased investigations.
“We are disappointed that the FBI has decided to frame as an isolated incident recent revelations that one of its analysts, William Gawthrop, taught agents that the Prophet Mohammed was a ‘cult leader,’ and that Islamic charitable giving is a ‘funding mechanism for combat.’ Unfortunately, it is not an isolated incident.
“Documents from 2009 show that the FBI’s Law Enforcement Communications Unit promoted the idea that Islam ‘transforms [a] country’s culture into 7th century Arabian ways’ and recommended anti-Muslim materials such as a book written by Robert Spencer, a notorious Islamophobe.
“Spencer trained the FBI and Department of Justice-led Joint Terrorism Taskforce in Tidewater, Va., in 2010. Responding to a CAIR letter, an FBI representative failed to address Spencer’s anti-Muslim bias and instead merely said he was invited to train agents due to his status as a bestselling author.
“Wired magazine has already produced evidence that two months after the training that the FBI has portrayed as isolated, Gawthrop spoke at an FBI-sponsored event in New York during which he told law enforcement professionals to ‘to go after Islam itself’ and to ‘undermine the validity of key Islamic scriptures and key Muslim leaders.’
“CAIR believes it is reasonable to question how individuals with such hostile views of an entire world religion could be placed in a position of responsibility that enables them to spread those biased views.
“CAIR also believes that it is crucial for the FBI to take swift and transparent action to assure the nation it serves that bigoted trainers and inaccurate, biased training materials will never again be used to educate its agents.
“The FBI should not downplay or minimize the negative impact of these episodes. FBI agents set an example for officials at many state and local law enforcement agencies. The FBI should take swift and transparent action to reform a system that allows bias to influence training.”
The coalition news conference was scheduled in reaction to new revelations that the FBI apparently continues to employ an analyst who tells counterterrorism and security personnel to target Islam, not al-Qaida.
Video: FBI Trainer Says Forget ‘Irrelevant’ al-Qaida, Target Islam
Last week, CAIR 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.
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR Legislative Director Corey Saylor, 202-384-8857, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, E-Mail: email@example.com; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org