Since the September 11, 2001 attacks by al Qaeda Homeland Security Professionals Conference,on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the fed- eral government has mobilized law enforcement agencies at all levels into a coordinated national defense against future terror attacks. To meet this challenge, the growing ranks of the domestic security apparatus—including local police, transit, port, and other agencies not traditionally involved in counterterrorism—require training. The George W. Bush administration’s declaration of “war on terror” bolstered a private counterterrorism training industry that offers courses on topics ranging from infrastructure reinforcement to terrorist ideology.
A nine-month investigation by Political Research Associates (PRA) finds that government agencies responsible for domestic security have inadequate mechanisms to ensure quality and consistency in ter- rorism preparedness training provided by private vendors; public servants are regularly presented with misleading, inflammatory, and dangerous informa- tion about the nature of the terror threat through highly politicized seminars, industry conferences, trade publications, and electronic media. In place of sound skills training and intelligence briefings, a vocal and influential sub-group of the private counterterrorism training industry markets conspiracy theories about secret jihadi campaigns to replace the U.S. Constitution with Sharia law, and effectively impugns all of Islam — a world religion with 1.3 billion adherents—as inherently violent and even terroristic.
Walid Shoebat, a popular “ex-Muslim” speaker used by multiple private training firms, recently told the audience at an International Counter-Terrorism Officers Association (ICTOA) conference, “Islam is a revolution and is intent to destroy all other systems. They want to expand, like Nazism.”1 Another private sector counterterrorism trainer, John Giduck, told a Homeland Security Professionals Conference “Going back to the time of Mohammed, Muslims’ goal has been to take over the world.”2 Walid Phares, who teaches for The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies and the National Defense University, argues that “jihadists within the West pose as civil rights advocates”3 and patiently recruit until “[a]lmost all mosques, educational centers, and socioeconomic institutions fall into their hands.”4 These “jihadists” put off militant action, Phares claims ominiously, “until the ‘holy moment’ comes.”5 Solomon Bradman, CEO of the training firm Security Solutions International (SSI), likewise claims that a Muslim stealth jihad threatens the United States from within. Such assertions are far from benign. Asked by a PRA investigator what she understood to be Shoebat’s solution to the Islamic threat he described at the ICTOA event previously mentioned, one audience member responded, “Kill them, including the children. You heard him.”
Islamophobic statements like those above have the effect of demonizing the entirety of Islam as dangerous and “extremist,” denying the existence of a moderate Muslim majority, or regarding Islam gen- erally as a problem for the world.
The private sector speakers and trainers PRA investigated routinely invoke conspiracy theories that draw upon deeply- ingrained negative stereotypes of Muslim duplicity, repression, backwardness, and evil.8 Islamophobia is “an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in prac- tices of exclusion and discrimination” and may include the perception that Islam is inferior to the West and is a violent political ideology rather than a religion.
The notion that a generalized Muslim menace poses an existential threat to the United States and western democracy contradicts official national secu- rity doctrine and undermines both domestic security and the constitutional rights of our citizens and resi- dents. Nonetheless, PRA’s investigation finds that public resources are being used to propagate this dangerous falsehood to the nation’s first responders, intelligence analysts, and other public servants.