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Church State Issues

ACLU, Islamic groups protest anti-terror training

Sep 12, 2014

Arizona Republic

While I am an atheist I certainly think it is wrong for the government to discriminate against people for their religious beliefs or single out people for persecution based on their religion.


ACLU, Islamic groups protest anti-terror training

Michael Kiefer, The Republic | azcentral.com 9:58 p.m. MST September 11, 2014

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, along with several Muslim community leaders, wrote a letter this week to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery to protest a training session purporting to tell the truth about Muslim terrorist groups.

Montgomery's office is sponsoring the event next week.

The session, titled "Understanding the Threat," is to be presented by a disgraced former FBI agent named John Guandolo, who ­focuses on the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas and their supposed infiltration into the United States.

"He's got a hateful message," said Dan ­Pochoda, legal director of the ACLU of Arizona. "It's so symbolically wrong because it's a message of hate and ­racism."

But Montgomery countered by saying, "It's apparent to me that the training is mischaracterized."

Montgomery said he had heard of the program and had sent people to see it and determine if it was appropriate for law-enforcement officials in Arizona.

"I'm comfortable with the training they're going to get," he said.

Montgomery also said that he had already talked to local Muslim groups about the training session.

But the session has been canceled in other parts of the country, including Kansas, after strong protests, particularly by Muslim groups.

The organization Understanding the Threat states in its mission that it "provides threat- ­focused strategic and operational consultation, training and education for federal, state and local leadership and agencies in government, the private sector and for private citizens."

Its main premise is that the Muslim Brotherhood wants to "overthrow the United States of America and reduce the American people ­under the tyranny of ­Islamic law."

Founder Guandolo made headlines in 2009 when he resigned from the FBI after it was revealed that he had an affair with a confidential source in a political-corruption case he was investigating.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, describes Guandolo as a "former FBI agent who has made a living calling out high-ranking government officials as ­secret plants working for the Muslim Brotherhood."

Guandolo could not be reached for comment immediately.

The training event is scheduled for next Friday at a Hilton Hotel in Tempe.

"Topics to be covered include the threats posed to our local communities by Hamas, Hezbollah and Sharia Law," according to the invitation sent out by the County Attorney's Office.

Wednesday's letter of protest, authored by Pochoda and signed by six Muslim community leaders, said, "The use of anti-Muslim trainers and materials is highly offensive, disparages the faith of millions of Americans, and inevitably leads to biased policing that targets individuals and communities based on religion and ethnicity, and not on criminal acts or evidence of wrongdoing."

Imraan Siddiqi, president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Arizona, called Guandolo an "Islamophobe."

"There's no problem with doing anti-terrorism training, but this ­individual has a bias," said Siddiqi, who also signed the letter. "He's creating a false correlation between being a Muslim and being prone to violence.

"If you were to say that about any other religious group, it would be unacceptable."