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Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017
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Muslims seek instructor's ouster

TAMPA - Local Muslims are asking for the removal of a state-contracted counter-terrorism instructor whom they say spreads false information about their religion and encourages law enforcement officers in Florida to racially profile people of the Islamic faith. The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Tampa sent a letter Tuesday to state officials, asking them to sever ties with instructor Sam Kharoba. The trainer's presentations are "full of inaccuracies, sweeping generalizations and stereotypes," the letter said. "He encourages law enforcement officers to view Muslims with distrust," said Hassan Shibly, executive director of CAIR in Tampa. "His training materials encourage law enforcement officers to profile and target Muslims." Kharoba's training manual says Islam favors war, not peace, and says countries with a 99-percent Muslim population are "ultimate Jihad-manufacturing societies," according to the council's letter.
The council's claims, Kharoba said, are baseless. "CAIR's statements are manufactured distractions designed to shift blame onto the law enforcement agencies that are protecting the American people," Kharoba said. Kharoba owns a for-profit company called the Counter Terrorism Operations Center. His company was hired by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to offer the training sessions. The FDLE is reviewing CAIR's concerns, spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said. The department has "received positive feedback" from people taking Kharoba's courses, Plessinger said. The FDLE, which organizes several training sessions a year for state police officers, had to cancel a few classes in the spring because of a lack of participants, Plessinger said. One of the canceled sessions was to be taught by Kharoba. Shibly said Kharoba's manual and related presentations may have influenced local officers. People in Tampa's Muslim community have reached out to CAIR, saying they were harassed by Hillsborough County deputies, Shibly said. Deputies are not taught or encouraged to harass anyone, sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon said. "Racial profiling is not condoned here," he said. No one in the Muslim-American community has contacted the sheriff's office to say they were targeted by deputies, McKinnon said. "But if they did, we'll take their complaints seriously and investigate," he said. The council's letter said Kharoba's training manual instructs police that the Islamic prophet Muhammad's teachings started as "peaceful and tolerant but later became radical and militant." Kharoba also wrote that "every one of Osama bin Laden's speeches is theologically correct according to Islamic theology" and that bin Laden was "simply following the path and the mission that Prophet Muhammad started 1,429 years ago," the letter said. Shibly and other Muslim-Americans have denounced bin Laden. Ramzy Kilic, the council's former director, said bin Laden "hijacked the Islamic faith and was responsible for the anti-Muslim backlash since 9/11." Kharoba said Muslim police officers who enrolled in his course never complained. "Approximately 100 Muslim law enforcement officers attended our training classes over the past 10 years and none of these Muslim officers complained or provided any negative review of the material presented," Kharoba said. The Muslim officers, Kharoba said, agreed with the presentations, which "clearly demonstrates the factual accuracy of our material and the baseless position that the critics are taking in order to hinder law enforcement efforts to protect our citizens from extremists." The training manual, a copy of which was obtained by the council through a public records request, is titled "Understanding Islamic Theology: The Driving Force Behind Islamist Terrorism." A label on the cover reads, "Law Enforcement Sensitive, Do Not Distribute." McKinnon said deputies attended four classes taught by Kharoba from 2007 to 2009. Relevant, useful information in any seminar is absorbed into the sheriff's office's policy and procedures, he said. "But we'll censor anything that isn't appropriate," McKinnon said.

rreyes@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7920
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