Conversation focuses on FBI training material offensive to Muslims
Washington, D.C. – In a continuing effort to address concerns related to inflammatory training material, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently met with community and interfaith organizations to provide an update on steps taken by the agency to rectify the matter. On Wednesday, February 8, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Arab American Institute (AAI), Interfaith Alliance, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Muflehun, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and the Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign had an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Public Affairs Office of the FBI. Director Robert Mueller joined the meeting to discuss these matters with the representatives from the organizations.
The conversation with Director Mueller centered on material used by the agency that depicts falsehoods and negative connotations of the Muslim American community. The use of the material was first uncovered by Wired Magazine in an article published on September 14, 2011. Director Mueller informed the participants that the FBI took the review of the training material very seriously, and he pursued the matter with urgency to ensure that this does not occur again in the future.
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of Interfaith Alliance and steering committee member of Shoulder-to-Shoulder, stated, “Not only did Director Mueller devote an unusually large block of time to listen to our concerns regarding the importance of correcting training curricula that offended Muslims, Sikhs, Arab Americans, and thus, all of us, he also seemed to understand the hurt and pain as well as the fear, engendered by the materials. Equally important, Director Mueller acknowledged the seriousness of our concerns and expressed commitment to maintaining regular contact with the interreligious community.”
The Director also informed participants that to date, nearly all related FBI training materials, including more than 160,000 pages of documents, were reviewed by subject matter experts multiple times. Consequently, more than 700 documents and 300 presentations of material have been deemed unusable by the Bureau and pulled from the training curriculum. Material was pulled from the curriculum if even one component was deemed to 1) include factual errors, 2) be in poor taste, 3) be stereotypical, or 4) lack precision.
The meeting also provided an opportunity to share with Director Mueller other matters of concern to community members. Issues related to privacy, including the surveillance of mosques, were discussed. It was clear to all meeting participants that the issue of trust between community members and the FBI needs to be taken seriously by all of our nation’s decision-makers. It was also evident that the Bureau must strengthen its efforts to build trust. The Director has testified before Congress about the invaluable contribution that the Muslim community makes to our nation’s security, noting a recent bomb plot in Tampa, Fla., that was foiled thanks to a joint effort by the FBI and the local Muslim community.
The changes proposed by the FBI to the training modules are a welcomed first step in ensuring that such a mistake does not occur again in the future. The group asked the FBI Director to issue a formal statement on this matter acknowledging the negative impact of these training materials on the Muslim community. Representatives from the community and interfaith organizations also stressed the importance of transparency by the Bureau in dealing with these matters, and suggested that a committee of community leaders and experts be assembled to review training material issued by the FBI. Meeting participants requested that the training process be open and transparent moving forward and requested future meetings with Director Mueller to continue the conversation.
Interfaith Alliance is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.