“Where does the hatred come from?”

By Eli Clifton and Daniel Luban

This fall, U.S. law enforcement personnel will have their final chance to take advantage of a rare opportunity. Participants will travel to Israel to receive “homeland security training,” but the counterterrorism briefings and martial arts practice sessions are only one part of the package. The program also includes visits to Christian religious sites in the Holy Land — an aspect likely to be especially attractive to Christian Zionists — along with other sites such as the Knesset and the Israeli “security fence”.

The Israel program is run by Security Solutions International (SSI), a group that has attracted controversy due to its ties to Islamophobic propaganda groups — as well as its apparent view that indoctrinating first responders with alarmist information about Islam is an essential part of counterterrorism training.

Most striking of all, the SSI Israel trip is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. DHS’s funding of this venture is a concrete illustration of the ways that Islamophobic fringe groups have exploited the “global war on terror” for their own purposes.

SSI advertises its DHS funding in its promotional material:

”The US Department of Homeland Security has given funding to the SSI trip – to the best of our knowledge the only trip to qualify by a private company. The program is approved for graduate and undergraduate college credits.

SSI’s Training in Israel has been attended by Police, Sheriffs, Emergency Management, Transportation, Fire, Joint Terrorism Task Forces, State Law Enforcement Agencies, Fortune 500 companies, DHS and many more. All of them say this training is the very best they have ever received.”

So what does this training involve? In addition to martial arts demonstrations (including “how to take down an armed suicide bomber”), meetings with Israeli security personnel, and a three-hour presentation on “suicide terror,” the itinerary also includes more tourist-oriented activities. Tourist excursions are both political (visits to the Knesset, the West Bank “security barrier,” and southern Israeli towns that have been the target of rocket attacks from Gaza), and religious (trips to Jerusalem’s Old City and to “some of Christianity’s holiest sites”).

While this DHS-funded trip might already seem a bit odd — especially the emphasis on Christian religious sites during what is ostensibly a counterterrorism training program — things take a turn towards the bizarre in the section of the website advertising SSI’s two day presentations on “The Islamic Jihadist Threat”.

“In a fascinating and insightful, packed two-day program, you are taken through the formative phases of the Islamic religion and will understand the different branches of Islam, understand how these were formed and on what ideology they are based. You are taken through a journey up to the present time, to really understand how extremism is organized in Radical Islam.

In addition, you will learn about Islamic Culture – knowledge that can help you build strong relationship with Islamic communities – most of whom can actually help detect radical threats:
– Where does the hatred come from?
– Arab naming conventions
– Jihad
– The Five Pillars of Islam
– Ramadan
– Domestic Terror groups
– International Terror groups
– Understanding the culture of Jihad

It’s hard to imagine how an introduction to Islam that begins with “where does the hatred come from?” could lead the audience to come away with anything but distrust and fear of Muslims.

Unsurprisingly, SSI has been criticized for the alarmist tenor of its “counterterrorism” training. It is not immediately obvious why the Appalachian State University campus security force, or the Yakima, WA police department — to take two representative names from SSI’s clients list — require a crash course in the fine points of jihadist ideology to do their jobs properly.

Critics have pointed out that the most likely effect of such training — particularly for law enforcement personnel who have never had significant contact with Muslims before — is to drum up hysteria, and increase the likelihood of a potentially tragic overreaction when they actually do encounter someone they presume to be Muslim.

As Arsalan Bukhari, president of the Washington state chapter of CAIR, told the Seattle Times: “Most police officers don’t have a basic grounding in Islam, so before you teach them about Islam, how can you teach them about radical Islam? It just makes you nervous because when a law-enforcement person pulls someone over, when they see a Muslim person or someone who appears Muslim to them — all this information they just learned kicks in.”

Given SSI’s ideology, readers may not be surprised to discover the Islamophobic company it keeps. SSI lists the Clarion Fund‘s film Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West as a ”Patriot Partner”.

We have written extensively (here and here) about Obsession and its sequel, The Third Jihad, both of which propagate a fiercely Islamophobic message.

According to the SSI website, this fall’s Israel trip will be the last. Still, the religious emphasis of SSI’s trips, their propensity to view all of “Islamic Culture” through the prism of “where does the hatred come from?”, and their partnership with the “Obsession” project’s divisive anti-Muslim message, all raise serious questions about why this group has been receiving DHS funding in the first place.

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Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.

SHOW 20 COMMENTS

20 Comments

  1. The title is best evidence of where the hatred come from.

    I saw nothing in the article that a fair minded person could call hatred.

    Instead of screaming “hate” Muslims would be better off engaging in the education and trying to explain why so much of the terrorism and Violence in the world today involves Muslims, and why the vast majority of victims are Muslims. For the last reason alone, Muslims should be concerned.

  2. Excellent post.

    Another outfit like SSI is CT Solutions.
    http://www.ict.org.il/Services/CTSolutions/tabid/285/Default.aspx

    They are the for profit branch of ICT the counterterrorism school at IDC Herzliya, Israel. http://www.ict.org.il/

    They have a lovely exchange program with Syracuse University’s School of Counterterrorism where the same type of “understanding” of the Islamic world is taught.
    http://webdev.maxwell.syr.edu/insct/academic_programming/foreign_study/programs_israel%20exchange.htm

  3. Where does hate come from. Simple : start dealing with the Palastinan issue. 2. Stop supporting dictators in the muslim land for the western economic interest. 3. Stop demonsing muslim values just because some culutural fascsist fail to grasp people have different views of morality and modesty and acceptability in the east. 4. Stop treating muslim as you have treated the red Indian. 5. Stop invading muslim land with armies. 6. Stop enforcing western ecomonimic model which is based on exploitation of the poor in the name democracy. 7. Oppostion or criticism of western policy does not constitute act of terrorism. Ironic the western country talk of free speech but every attempt is made to silence valid criticism using intrusive means. Western idenity is not based on anti Islamic stance and the same way Islamic sentiment is not based on anti western stance either.
    8. Lastly stop treting muslim like a second class citizen of the world.
    Like all society muslim society is not free from the social ills. Pretending the social ills somehow the fault of the relegion is slap on commonsense. When crime is committed by westerner, the western value is not attacked. However the same prinicple is ignored when a muslim commits a crime.

  4. It’s a sad fact that a lot of the terrorism in the world today is perpetrated by Muslims. This violence is directed towards Westerners (Jews, Christians and secularists), as well as fellow Muslims. What some of us seem to forget, however, is the violence that Westerners have visited upon Muslims. The British, the French, the Americans and the Israelis hardly have clean hands. And I say this as one who feels Muslims must assimilate or leave Western lands. (By assimilate I don’t mean abandon their religion, but agree to subordinate some of its claims to the culture of their host country. If they find this impossible, then they should remove themselves to a Muslim land.)

    One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, sad but true. If Muslims have no chance of matching their Western/Israeli opponents on the battlefield, they will use terrorist methods. Should we expect them to simply knuckle under?

    I would like to see an attempt made to reach a true modus vivendi with the Muslim world. Muslims must renounce terrorism, work with us to eradicate it, and accept a world of diversity. In return the West must stop interfering in the internal affairs of Muslim countries. A Western military presence in the Persian Gulf, so long as the Gulf states wish it, would be maintained to ensure the uninterrupted flow of oil, and as a counterweight to Iranian power. But beyond that no Western military in the region. At the same time, the West must stop genuflecting to Israel and insist on a two-state solution in Palestine which truly gives the Palestinians an independent existence.

    The program outlined above is, however, never going to be implemented. For that reason I advocate a U.S. withdrawal from the region. I am convinced that any state in the region, regardless of its ideology, will sell us oil if our politico-military presence is removed (which would include an end to aid for Israel). If I’m wrong, we have the military capability to solve that problem — but I don’t think I’m wrong. The ultimate fate of Israel, a foreign country, is a matter of indifference to me.

    Should the Muslim world nevertheless prove hostile to us simply because we are not Muslims, or for any other reason, and should it move aggresively against us, I would be quite prepared to use whatever military force is necessary — any weapon in our arsenal — to teach them that they will have to respect us. We have the power to achieve this.

    For us as Americans, it really is a simple matter. When we worry about the fate of Jews in Palestine, or Pashtuns in Afghanistan, or any of the other peoples inhabiting those god-forsaken deserts, that’s when we get into trouble.

  5. Hmmm–does this mean that US law enforcement will start treating Muslims and other assorted non-establishment types the same way that the IDF treats Palestinians? Seems to me that they could have saved a lot of time and simply had the LAPD train them on how they arrest people!

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