CAPE CORAL, Fla. - No one can forget the horrific images of September 11, 2001, and the heroic stories of the first responders who died trying to save lives.
"Those are like brothers in the law enforcement business," Sam Kharoba said.
Kharoba, of Cape Coral, trains officers to spot potential warning signs through his organization, the Counter Terrorism Operations Center. Because of the work he does, he asked us not to show his face. Kharoba says he's been paid to train more than 20,000 law enforcement officials around the country, and has been utilized by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Cape Coral Police
"There is no one complete profile that you can say a terrorist will exhibit," Kharoba explained.
Something as simple as a headband with an insignia, he said, could show willingness to become a martyr.
"In Palestinian territories, suicide bombers would shave their bodies in a form of cleansing prior to their martyrdom. They don't do that in Afghanistan."
Kharoba was born in Jordan. He's not a Muslim, and has no experience in law enforcement. But, he said living in that region and understanding the cultures and languages has given him experience no degree can provide.
"A lot of what we're doing is not antagonizing people, or discriminating against people," Kharoba said. "We're simply explaining the differences that make other cultures different so the law enforcement community can really do their job."
Public records show good reviews from many of Kharoba's students:
"I found it all to be useful."
"Most knowledgeable instructor I have met in a long time."
"I would recommend this class to every law enforcement officer."
But some in the Muslim community are not quite so positive. This month, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, and 30 other Islamic organizations sent a letter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, denouncing Kharoba's teachings, and requesting the agency end its relationship with him.
"We know about the anti-Muslim rhetoric he espouses during his training," Executive Director of South Florida CAIR Nezar Hamze said. "He makes blanketing statements, casting all muslims in a shadow of evilness, and 'watch out for the muslims,' so that's what concerned us."
Hamze claims Kharoba's handbook contains factual errors and dangerous stereotypes about Muslims.
"They learn this, and they look at all muslims as a suspect," Hamze said. "They see a Muslim man with a beard or woman in a hijab, and they start saying, oh we've got to watch out for this guy, oh we've got to follow this person, we've got to see what's going on."
Hamze said they're targets of profiling, contradicting an FDLE policy against bias-based profiling. We contacted FDLE to find out how many profiling complaints they've received from Muslims over the past 10 years. They said they don't keep these specific records.
So, we contacted each law enforcement agency from Collier, Lee and Charlotte Counties. The Lee and Charlotte County Sheriff's Offices, Punta Gorda, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Naples Police reported no complaints. Nor did the Lee County Port Authority Police. The Collier County Sheriff's Office and Marco Island Police do not track these numbers.
"Islama-phobia now, is an industry," Imam Mohamed Al-Darsani said, "and the sad thing is, parts of our government, the state government and the federal government are involved in it>"
Al-Darsani from the Islamic Center for Peace in Fort Myers says he's concerned Kharoba has no official credentials to be teaching on the topic. He and those who signed the letter, want FDLE to create qualifications standards for all counter terrorism trainers.
"Information is power," Al-Darsani said. "Well, misinformation is disastrous power."
Kharoba addressed each of CAIR's claims in a document. He said the fact that CAIR was cut off from working with the F.B.I. following the 2008 Holy Land Trial - which listed CAIR as an unindicted co-conspirator in Hamas-funding - makes their claims questionable.
"To label me as a bigot, an anti-Muslim and go after me based on labels and extractions and statements without facts, it's simply false," Kharoba said.
Hamze calls this a flat-out lie. He said no CAIR chapter, including CAIR Florida, has ever provided support to terrorist organizations. He said CAIR Florida operates as its own legal entity, regularly working with the FBI on civil rights issues and investigations.
"This is troubling because it creates a chill when the Muslim community to work so hard to be contributing in society, and give positive things, and work with law enforcement," Hamze said.
Despite all the differences, the need for a stronger relationship between the Muslim community and law enforcement is something they all agree on.
"Terrorism is a humongous crime to us," Al-Darsani said. "We'll do our best stop it, to counter it, to expose it, and do everything we can to help law enforcement."
FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey sent a letter to CAIR saying the issue was placed on the agenda for the October 31st meeting of the Florida Criminal Justice Training Center Directors Association. Results will be presented to the Florida Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission the next day.
WINK News heard from a former Cape Coral detective who shared his experience of taking Kharoba's course. You can find it at: http://www.winknews.com/Call-for-Action/2012-08-15/Former-Det-says-counter-terrorism-course-not-biased
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