Law enforcement officials across Florida have been repeatedly exposed to training on Muslim extremism "full of inaccuracies, sweeping generalizations and stereotypes," a complaint filed Wednesday claims.
The classes have maligned the Prophet Muhammad and promulgated mistruths about Islam, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations and a number of mosques and smaller Muslim organizations.
"It's troubling, un-American and frankly, quite possibly illegal training," said Hassan Shibly of CAIR, which focused its criticisms squarely on one man, Sam Kharoba, who has led a variety of classes for police through his Counter Terrorism Operations Center. "It makes us less safe and less free."
Kharoba called the claims "manufactured distractions" and said his training "is based on historical facts found in the most respected and authentic Islamic religious texts."
"CTOC challenges these critics to a public debate to find any factual flaws with our training material," he wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
Under a public records request, CAIR said it found Kharoba held at least 21 separate trainings for state law enforcement agencies since 2005, some of them sanctioned by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. They say he uses a training manual that says "Muhammad lived a diabolical life" and that Osama bin Laden "did not hijack or twist Islam."
CAIR also points to an article last year in Washington Monthly in which Kharoba is quoted telling an audience "When I look at the life of Muhammad, I get a very nasty image ... I am talking about a pedophile, a serial killer, a rapist."
In a statement released after that article was published, Kharoba said the writers "hand-selected a few statements without context to slander law enforcement trainers." He says he makes clear that "not all Muslims are radical."
Last March, Sens. Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins wrote a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder, citing the Washington Monthly article.
"We are concerned with recent reports that state and local law enforcement agencies are being trained by individuals who not only do not understand the ideology of violent Islamic extremism but also cast aspersions on a wide swath of ordinary Americans merely because of their religious affiliation," they wrote.
Kharoba said Wednesday that more than 20,000 law enforcement officers around the country have undergone training by his organization in the past decade and that feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. He said about 100 Muslim officers have been among the students and that none of them complained about the material.
The Muslim groups called for FDLE to end its relationship with Kharoba in news conferences in Tampa and Pembroke Pines on Wednesday.
Gretl Plessinger, a spokeswoman for FDLE, confirmed Kharoba has been used for counterterrorism instruction "and has received positive feedback from those taking his course." She said the agency will review CAIR's concerns but that FDLE "does not have authority for all law enforcement training in Florida."
In a biography included in the documents CAIR obtained in its public records request, Kharoba describes himself as a Christian who was born and raised in Jordan, later moved to the U.S., and who started his training program after the Sept. 11 attacks. Florida Department of State records show the organization is run out of his Cape Coral home.
See also CAIR press release, 10 July 2012
And "Activists call on Florida Department of Law Enforcement to ditch anti-Muslim training contractor", WMNF, 12 July 2012