ONTD Political

How We Train Our Cops to Fear Islam

6:46 pm - 03/02/2011
There aren’t nearly enough counterterrorism experts to instruct all of America’s police.
So we got these guys instead.

By Meg Stalcup and Joshua Craze

On a bright January morning in 2010, at Broward College in Davie, Florida, about sixty police officers and other frontline law enforcement officials gathered in a lecture hall for a course on combating terrorism in the Sunshine State. Some in plain clothes, others in uniform, they drifted in clutching Styrofoam cups of coffee, greeting acquaintances from previous statewide training sessions. The instructor, Sam Kharoba, an olive-skinned man wearing rimless glasses and an ill-fitting white dress shirt, stood apart at the front of the hall reviewing PowerPoint slides on his laptop.

As he got under way, Kharoba described how, over the next three days, he would teach his audience the fundamentals of Islam. “We constantly hear statements,” Kharoba began, “that Islam is a religion of peace, and we constantly hear of jihadists who are trying to kill as many non-Muslims as they can.” Kharoba’s course would establish for his students that one of these narratives speaks to a deep truth about Islam, and the other is a calculated lie.

“How many terror attacks have there been since 9/11? Muslim terror attacks,” Kharoba asked the room. Silence. “Let’s start the bidding.”

“Over a hundred,” someone volunteered.

“I got a hundred,” Kharoba called back. Another audience member, louder now, suggested three hundred.

“Three hundred!” Kharoba declared.

“Over a thousand,” offered another voice in the audience.

Kharoba stopped the bidding. “Over thirteen thousand,” he said. “Over thirteen thousand attacks.” He paused to let the statistic sink in.

Kharoba belongs to a growing profession, one that is ballooning on the spigot of federal and state dollars set aside for counterterrorism efforts since the attacks of September 11, 2001. He is a counterterrorism instructor to America’s beat cops, one of several hundred working the law enforcement training circuit. Some are employed by large security contractors; others, like Kharoba, are independent operators.

Kharoba was born in Jordan, and he likes to intimate that members of his family are important tribal leaders. This lends a veneer of insider credibility to classroom remarks that might otherwise seem like off-color jokes. He showed the class some photographs taken in the Gaza Strip. “This is the Arab version of a line,” Kharoba told the students, gesturing to a photo of Palestinians rushing toward a passport agency. Then he showed a YouTube video of two uniformed men beating a nameless prisoner. “This is what Miranda rights are in the Arab world,” he said.

Fortunately for an adept American police officer, Kharoba said, jihadists telegraph their extremist intentions in altogether predictable ways. One only has to learn the signs. Take Mahmoud—Kharoba’s preferred name for a generic Muslim. Kharoba can tell whether Mahmoud is a Wahhabi (a member of a fundamentalist Islamic sect from Saudi Arabia) just by going through Mahmoud’s trash. There will be no pre-approved credit card offers, because interest is forbidden in Islam. There will be no brown wax fried-chicken bags, because fried chicken isn’t halal. For Kharoba, extremist Muslims are as easy to spot as American gang members.

“When you see a bunch of guys in red, what do you know?” Kharoba asked.

“They are Bloods,” responded the audience, many of whom deal with gangs regularly.

“When you have a Muslim that wears a headband, regardless of color or insignia, basically what that is telling you is ‘I am willing to be a martyr.’” There were other signs, too. “From the perspective of operational security, there are two things I am always looking out for: a shaved body and moving lips,” he explained. “Some of the Pakistani hijackers shaved their whole bodies in a ritual of cleanliness. If their lips are moving, these guys are praying. As they are walking through an airport, every second they’re going to be praying.”

America today is too politically correct to acknowledge the reality of Islamic fanaticism, Kharoba said. “Would Islam be tolerated if everyone knew its true message?” he asked the class. “From a Muslim perspective, do you want non-Muslims to know the truth about Islam?”

“No!” came the audience reply.

“So what do Muslims do?” Kharoba demanded.


Kharoba strode forward to the front of the room, his voice slower now, more measured. “Islam is a highly violent radical religion that mandates that all of the earth must be Muslim.”

The class broke for lunch.

That afternoon, Kharoba offered more tips on how to detect violent Muslims. “You remember the Alligator Alley incident?” he asked.

He was referring to the events of September 13, 2002, when three Middle Eastern men at a Shoney’s restaurant in Calhoun, Georgia—one Jordanian, one Pakistani, and one Egyptian—were overheard talking about “bringing it down” to Miami. A nearby diner, one Eunice Stone, became alarmed and contacted the Georgia highway patrol. In what became a terrorist scare with national coverage, the police pulled the three men over on Alligator Alley, the long section of Interstate 75 that cuts west across Florida. For thirteen hours, the police combed the vehicle for explosives.

Kharoba projected a picture of Ayman Gheith, one of the arrested men, onto the screen. “The first thing is facial hair,” Kharoba said. “Do you see how the moustache is trimmed, and the beard is in a cone shape? It is very common to have this beard, and the moustache will always be the same, just like Muhammad.”

There is only one problem with the Alligator Alley case—a problem Kharoba never mentioned to the class. The incident was a false alarm. The “terrorists” turned out to be medical students on their way to a conference in Miami. They were innocent. After thirteen hours of interrogation, the police released them. Kharoba, however, taught the class that Ayman Gheith was a “textbook case” of Islamic fanaticism.

While his views are entirely his own, the fact that Kharoba is teaching this course at all reflects a sweeping shift in America’s official thinking about law enforcement and intelligence gathering. In recent years, the United States has become more and more committed to the idea of bringing local police forces into the business of sniffing out terrorists. In 2002, the National Joint Terrorism Task Force was set up to coordinate existing collaborative efforts among federal, state, and local law enforcement. And since 2006, the Department of Justice has been developing a program called the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, through which local cops are meant to act as intelligence gatherers on the ground, feeding reports of suspicious activity to a network of data “fusion centers” spread out across the country. The system is scheduled to be up and running in all seventy-two of the nation’s fusion centers by the end of this year. But in order for the cops to play a role in counterterrorism, the thinking goes, they need to be trained. And that’s where Kharoba and his ilk—counterterrorism trainers for hire—come in.

The very idea of integrating local police into the nation’s counterterror intelligence efforts is a subject of debate among security experts. People at the highest level of law enforcement and intelligence—to say nothing of civil liberties groups—have concerns about the strategy. While the premise is perhaps intuitively appealing—particularly in a place like Florida, where several of the 9/11 hijackers took flying lessons—one danger is that the system will be flooded with bad leads. An increase in incidents like the mistaken arrests on Alligator Alley would only degrade police work, obscure real threats, and spoil relations between America’s cops and America’s Muslims—who have thus far volunteered some of the most fruitful leads in preventing domestic terror attacks.

It might be theoretically possible to ward off such an outcome if police could be provided with impeccable training. But one of the central problems is that the demand for training far exceeds the supply of qualified instructors. Even the CIA and FBI have had trouble finding people with the key skills to fill their ranks. For state and local law enforcement departments, the scarcity is even more acute. Into the void, self-styled experts have rushed in.

While expertise in counterterrorism training may be in short supply, money for it is not. Each year the federal government directs billions of dollars (no one knows exactly how much) in terrorism-related training grants to state and local governments. These funds cascade down into myriad training programs like the one at Broward College, where instructors like Kharoba ply their trade with only minimal supervision.

...The source is a long article; I've condensed it to top and bottom, so to speak...But I would recommend also reading the middle. So...what are LEOs who are taking classes like this guy's taking away from them? Read on...

When we spoke to students from Kharoba’s class in Florida, many were enthusiastic. Olga Gonzalez, who is a TSA officer in Miami, told us she had taken several of Kharoba’s courses. “This guy is brilliant,” she said. “I can’t believe it: just like gang affiliations, you can distinguish between secular and jihadist Muslims.”

Such enthusiasm was echoed by dozens of Kharoba’s students and former students. On one occasion, we asked a student whether gangs—a more conventional subject of police attention—weren’t a more pressing issue for cops than terrorists.

“Yeah, the gangs are a threat,” answered the officer. “But they don’t have 1.5 billion members.”

Sam Kharoba says that in seven years of teaching he has done only one marketing function, because each training session leads to further invitations. Other trainers said similar things. If you are popular with cops, the word spreads; if you are not, you won’t last long. “It’s a very closed community,” Kharoba told us. “Cops are not going to read an advertisement, they are going to listen to friends.”

Were any cops skeptical of Kharoba’s teachings? Some certainly were. David McKaig, a deputy with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, enjoyed Kharoba’s class but noted that its lessons were not always applicable. “We have to uphold the rights of citizens,” McKaig noted. “You can’t violate the constitutional rights based on a hunch.”

But that doesn’t mean that trainers like Kharoba aren’t influential. “Now that I know these people might hate ‘the infidel,’ and be doing whatever they can to undermine the civilized world, I am somewhat leery of dealing with Muslims,” McKaig told us. “I go into their residences respectful but wary, which is not good in my position.”

When we attended one of Kharoba’s seminars in California, the training coordinator happened to sit in with us on the class. He too had serious reservations about the course, which he expressed to us and in a memo he later sent to his superior. His superior privately contacted some of his peers; to date, Kharoba has not been invited back to teach in California. But for both the coordinator and his superior, complaining to the agency that had provided Kharoba’s class—the Florida Regional Community Policing Institute of St. Petersburg College—was out of the question.

That’s because the course had been provided free of charge, through funding from the Department of Justice to the Florida Regional Community Policing Institute, and training coordinators around the country rely on such free courses to supplement state offerings. “Look, if we decide to say that he is full of shit, it would mean that we’re never going to get another class from those guys, because that is how cops are,” the California coordinator told us. “They’d say, ‘That rotten son of a bitch, after we’ve been so good to him and his friends.’;”

How to clean up the mess? Federal control is not the answer. For one thing, federal standards aren’t especially high. For another, constitutionally, law enforcement is the preserve of the states.

Moreover, there is no one-size-fits-all package for training. “What is relevant in a major city like Los Angeles may be entirely different than in Portland, Maine,” says Mike Rolince, who spent more than thirty years at the FBI, some of it working in counterterrorism. “And if you’re from NYPD or a Chicago PD and you have squads of officers and detectives working something, your budget and your training is significantly different than if you’re one of the majority of departments in the country that have less than thirty sworn officers.”

No matter what size the department may be, though, police need clear guidelines. Officers have to make decisions every day about when and how to apply the law, and when guidelines are bad or lacking, officers can go astray. In 2005, for instance, the Homeland Security and Intelligence Division of the Maryland State Police began secretly infiltrating a wide variety of activist groups—death penalty opponents, bicycle lane advocates, even a citizens group protesting utility rate hikes. Though not a single member of these groups was ever found to pose a security threat, troopers labeled dozens of them as “terrorists” and placed their names and files in a database shared by other regional law enforcement agencies. Perhaps worse, a subsequent state investigation found that no one in the Maryland State Police chain of command “gave any thought whatever to the possibility that its covert surveillance of these groups … was in any way inappropriate.” It is not hard to imagine that under the new Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, countless innocent Muslim Americans could similarly wind up being questioned, documented, and even arrested by local and state authorities, and their names, fingerprints, and other personal information entered into FBI databases, where they would sit for years.

This is a civil liberties issue, but it is also a matter of police effectiveness. As Bill Bratton, who headed up the police departments of both New York and Los Angeles, explains, “There is a real risk as you educate people that you do not, in fact, educate—whether it is law enforcement officers or community—to the degree that you misinform or create a fear or bias that should not be there.”

Indeed, having a bunch of ill-trained local cops sleuth around for jihadists could jeopardize the very counterterrorism efforts the government is supposed to be conducting. For one, it is likely to generate a lot of white noise, forcing analysts to spend precious time sifting through useless information. It could also “dry up important sources of information,” warns Matthew Waxman, an associate professor of law at Columbia University, who has written extensively on the role of local and state law enforcement in counterterrorism.

In counterterrorism, as in most areas of intelligence and law enforcement, vital information often comes from those closest to the suspected perpetrators—from neighbors, friends, even family members. It was an anonymous handwritten note from an Arab American in Lackawanna, New York, a small city outside Buffalo, that led the FBI to arrest six men accused of comprising a sleeper terrorist cell in that city in 2002. In another case last fall in Portland, Oregon, a tip from the Muslim community led federal authorities to arrest in a sting operation a nineteen-year-old Somali-born American for intent to set off a bomb at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Ham-handed and overly aggressive behavior by local police toward the Muslim community could break the trust necessary for this kind of information to flow.

The demands placed on police will only increase in the coming years. The Nationwide Suspicious Activities Reporting Initiative asks law enforcement to interpret everyday incidents and decide whether they are indicators of terrorist activity. These decisions are then fed into a nationwide system. Merle Manzi, from the Michigan State University Intelligence Program, argues that requiring line officers to specify that a suspicious activity is probably related to terrorism doesn’t make sense: “The thing about checking a box about terrorism is that, is the officer on the street going to know it is about terrorism? Or will they just know that it is a peculiar thing, something out of the ordinary?”

None of this is to say that state and local police and other first responders cannot play a role where terrorism is concerned. It’s crucial that they be well trained to cope with terrorist incidents once they occur—for instance, to detect and cordon off areas that have been hit by radiological weapons. But intelligence gathering is another matter. Paradoxically, the best thing the police can do in the struggle against terrorism may be to not do “counterterrorism” but simply perform the duties they are already mandated to perform: serve the communities they live in, keep their eyes open for suspicious activities of all sorts, and build the links that result in tip-offs like the one that led to the arrest of the men in Lackawanna.

But regardless of what role cops on the streets should or should not play in fighting terrorism, the fact is that rivers of federal training dollars are already flowing, many of them straight into the pockets of instructors like Sam Kharoba. The training system clearly needs reform. Again, federal control is not the solution, but a first step would be for the federal government to issue voluntary guidelines on how states can best reform their oversight of counterterrorism training—since the most robust reforms will need to happen at the state level. State accreditation should be made mandatory for counterterrorism training courses—it often isn’t—and the accreditation process itself must also be toughened. There should be subject-matter experts who evaluate courses, and they should sit in on classroom sessions anonymously. If such a system of state-based oversight worked properly, then bad trainers would have their state accreditation revoked, and they would no longer be allowed to teach in the state. If states agreed to share lists of bad trainers, then the trainer would effectively be banned nationwide. Time is of the essence. Within the next year, the Department of Justice plans to implement the Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative nationwide, and this will amplify the effects of the bad training being provided—unless the system is reformed quickly. It also behooves us to ask the fundamental question of what role beat cops should play in counterterrorism. But instead of a broader discussion, what we have now is a system that fails to police the ranks of those who train our frontline officers, while no one is paying attention. Apart, that is, from the police.
celli_puzzle 3rd-Mar-2011 12:55 am (UTC)


how does it work
cecilia_weasley 3rd-Mar-2011 05:20 am (UTC)
Yeaaaa I saw this I had the same reaction. I think I'm gonna go now. Disgusted.
oaktree89 3rd-Mar-2011 01:35 am (UTC)
Ugh. See my icon for my feelings on this guy.

In happier news, I just got back from interfaith text study- as usual I was the only Jew, but at least we had more than two Muslims this time! That group always makes me feel better about humanity :)
oaktree89 3rd-Mar-2011 01:36 am (UTC)
Meant to use this icon for that brilliant remark. Oops.
echoandsway 3rd-Mar-2011 01:39 am (UTC)
Heh, Happy Cookie Monster didn't quite make sense in context...
7eventeen 3rd-Mar-2011 01:44 am (UTC)
wait, fried chicken isn't halal? I grew up with KFC and giant halal signs EVERYWHERE.

"KFC...commits to provide products that are delicious, quality and halal".
7eventeen 3rd-Mar-2011 01:54 am (UTC)
I mean, I get that fried chicken might not be PREPARED in a halal fashion there, but there's a pretty sizeable distinction between fried chicken as a whole not being halal and availability of halal fried chicken, but seriously.

Also, I'm not touching the rest of the article with a nine-meter pole.
echoandsway 3rd-Mar-2011 02:18 am (UTC)
Seriously -- there are places all over that serve halal fried chicken. It's pretty common. Which doesn't mean it doesn't sometimes spark outrage (HDU, KFC!), but really...it ain't that uncommon. For anyone wondering, try googling "halal fried chicken."
cecilia_weasley 3rd-Mar-2011 05:22 am (UTC)
Yeaaa the Afghan family who owns the restaurant at the end of the street would like to respectfully disagree with that part. They have HALAL printed up everywhere and they are observant.
hotfuzz85 3rd-Mar-2011 09:44 am (UTC)
XD My childhood comfort food of choice. Before I go for my Wedneday jihad lessons.~
actourdreams 3rd-Mar-2011 02:18 am (UTC)
There will be no pre-approved credit card offers, because interest is forbidden in Islam. There will be no brown wax fried-chicken bags, because fried chicken isn’t halal.

Damn, I hope Kharoba never goes through my trash. He'll convict me instantly.

“Yeah, the gangs are a threat,” answered the officer. “But they don’t have 1.5 billion members.”

Yeah, and guess which of the above groups routinely shoots people in neighborhoods all over the US? *eyetwitch*

nicole_anell 3rd-Mar-2011 02:19 am (UTC)
That afternoon, Kharoba offered more tips on how to detect violent Muslims.

One of the most sickening articles I've read in a while and that's saying something. Sigh.
7eventeen 3rd-Mar-2011 02:42 am (UTC)
That gif is FANTASTIC.
echoandsway 3rd-Mar-2011 02:51 am (UTC)
Yeah; it makes me fearful that any cop I encounter will have attended one of these "trainings."

“When you have a Muslim that wears a headband, regardless of color or insignia, basically what that is telling you is ‘I am willing to be a martyr.’”

Nancy Ajram, he's onto you!
echoandsway 3rd-Mar-2011 03:40 am (UTC)
...Nope. But how many can, really, no matter what anyone "well, technically" tries to argue.

But then "well, technically" seems to be the name of the game where many are concerned.

Edited at 2011-03-03 03:42 am (UTC)
echoandsway 3rd-Mar-2011 03:44 am (UTC)

If you'd like we can take it elsewhere.

keithmex17 3rd-Mar-2011 04:56 am (UTC)
chaya 3rd-Mar-2011 01:47 pm (UTC)
echoandsway 7th-Mar-2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
(Sorry; I honestly have no idea what I was trying to say. This is why I really *shouldn't* be interacting with people while whacked out on painkillers. I wound up just going to bed shortly after.)
angelofdeath275 3rd-Mar-2011 02:09 pm (UTC)
...Ive read this many times and I can't figure out what you are saying.
echoandsway 5th-Mar-2011 04:15 am (UTC)
(Jus got the comment notification)...hell, I don't even know. I've been hopped up on painkillers for my kidneys since that evening.
ipromiseuiwill 3rd-Mar-2011 03:01 pm (UTC)
aviv_b 3rd-Mar-2011 02:54 am (UTC)
Give me a break. If you eat halal food, you're a terrorist? Puleez. And vegetarians are all socialists, right? And vegans, don't ask its too frightening to even talk about!

This has some of the worst stereotyping crap I've seen about Muslims.

And my tax dollars are paying for it. Lovely. Just lovely.
blackjedii 3rd-Mar-2011 03:44 am (UTC)
I met someone from Iran today.

He was ~really tall~ <3 <3 <3
echoandsway 3rd-Mar-2011 03:47 am (UTC)
But did he have a conical beard, really.
jugglingeggs 3rd-Mar-2011 07:57 am (UTC)
More importantly can he get free falafels?
blackjedii 3rd-Mar-2011 01:08 pm (UTC)
No and no!

He must have been disguised as a normal college student.
13oct 3rd-Mar-2011 04:33 am (UTC)
Reading this actually made me feel physically sick. How can people like this justify their actions? And he gets paid to spread his bigoted hatred. It's just beyond belief.
krazykat88 3rd-Mar-2011 04:41 am (UTC)
he says that there have been "“Over thirteen thousand attacks" - I'm assuming thats world wide, because otherwise it makes no sense, and even then, It seems a bit odd.
And whats this fuckery -

"“When you have a Muslim that wears a headband, regardless of color or insignia, basically what that is telling you is ‘I am willing to be a martyr.’”"

Uhm - what does he mean here? men who wear those skullcap things? or women in hijab? doesn't really matter, either way, its stereotyping and ick!
acidosaur 3rd-Mar-2011 10:33 am (UTC)
yeah, i'm pretty baffled as to how that stat came about.
the_gabih 3rd-Mar-2011 11:01 am (UTC)
Wikipedia gives 23 terrorist attacks within the US since 2001. About half of them actually made it to the bomb going off, and of those, several caused no real damage, and some were against Muslims.

ginmar 4th-Mar-2011 10:21 pm (UTC)
Well, let's hope this asshole can tell the difference between a Japanese person and a Muslim person because the Japanese often wear headbands with slogans on them for competitions, festivals, religious ceremonies and....so do Muslims, sometimes. Totally innocent. There's some kind of penis festival at a Japanese shrine every year. I'd like to see the TSA bust some of those guys and get beaten with giant dildos or something.
x_butterfly19_x 3rd-Mar-2011 07:00 am (UTC)
constantly hear of jihadists who are trying to kill as many non-Muslims as they can.


This guy is brilliant,” she said. “I can’t believe it: just like gang affiliations, you can distinguish between secular and jihadist Muslims.”

Spot the mistake.

America today is too politically correct to acknowledge the reality of Islamic fanaticism, Kharoba said. “Would Islam be tolerated if everyone knew its true message?” he asked the class. “From a Muslim perspective, do you want non-Muslims to know the truth about Islam?”

“No!” came the audience reply.

“So what do Muslims do?” Kharoba demanded.


Kharoba strode forward to the front of the room, his voice slower now, more measured. “Islam is a highly violent radical religion that mandates that all of the earth must be Muslim.”

Pot, kettle, black. urgh.

I understand they need to combat terrorism but come on. Breeding ignorance isn't helping.
7eventeen 3rd-Mar-2011 08:18 am (UTC)
"This guy is brilliant,” she said. “I can’t believe it: just like gang affiliations, you can distinguish between secular and jihadist Muslims.”

Spot the mistake."

is it everything except "she said"?
arabgirl 3rd-Mar-2011 08:52 am (UTC)
It's probably the "secular Muslims" part, since, well... apparently she doesn't actually know what secular means :P

But yeah, pretty much the whole thing.
7eventeen 3rd-Mar-2011 08:54 am (UTC)
Yeah, I saw that originally, but then I re-read "this guy is brilliant" and had to change my comment.
hinoema 3rd-Mar-2011 07:21 am (UTC)
THIS is the kind of waste that needs to be cut out of the budget.
the_gabih 3rd-Mar-2011 10:54 am (UTC)
facepalm,double facepalm,merlin,arthur
chaya 3rd-Mar-2011 01:48 pm (UTC)
Moment of silence for the last shreds of trust I had for the ability of US cops to keep racism out of their work...

Aaaand I'm done.
angelofdeath275 3rd-Mar-2011 02:11 pm (UTC)
I hate the police even more now. They condemn all non-whites to harrassment in the name of *~justice~*
dixiedolphin 3rd-Mar-2011 04:21 pm (UTC)
Why am I not surprised that shit like this comes out of Davie, FL. =/
illustratedd 4th-Mar-2011 02:31 pm (UTC)
There is no .gif or words to fully express my utter LOATHING for these kinds of people.
ginmar 4th-Mar-2011 10:19 pm (UTC)
So he cites an incident that was a false alarm and yet claims that there were 'thirteen thousand' terrorist acts? How many of them were false alarms?
This page was loaded Feb 24th 2017, 2:54 pm GMT.