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FBI ‘Islam 101′ Guide Depicted Muslims as 7th-Century Simpletons

28 July 2011 General 6 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

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As recently as January 2009, the FBI thought its agents ought to know the following crucial information about Muslims:

  • They engage in a “circumcision ritual”
  • More than 9,000 of them are in the U.S. military
  • Their religion “transforms [a] country’s culture into 7th-century Arabian ways.”

And this was what the FBI considered “recommended reading” about Islam:

All this is revealed in a PowerPoint presentation by the FBI’s Law Enforcement Communications Unit(.pdf), which trains new Bureau recruits. Among the 62 slides in the presentation, designed to teach techniques for “successful interviews/interrogations with individuals from the M.E. [Middle East],” is an instruction that the “Arabic mind” is “swayed more by words than ideas and more by ideas than facts.”

The briefing presents much information that has nothing to do with crime and everything to do with constitutionally-protected religious practice and social behavior, such as estimating the number of mosques in America and listing the states with the largest Muslim populations.

Other slides paint Islam in a less malicious light, and one urges “respectful liaison” as a “proactive approach” to engaging Muslims. But even those exhibit what one American Muslim civil rights leader calls “the understanding of a third grader, and even then, a badly misinformed third grader.”

One slide asks, “Is Iran an Arab country?” (It’s not.) Another is just a picture of worry beads.

“Based on this presentation, it is easy to see why so many in law enforcement and the FBI view American Muslims with ignorance and suspicion,” says Farhana Khera, the executive director of Muslim Advocates, a legal aid group. “The presentation appears to treat all Muslims with one broad brush and makes no distinction between lawful religious practice and beliefs and unlawful activities.”

A grainy copy of the PowerPoint was obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union’s Northern California chapter and the Asian Law Caucus, a San Francisco-based civil rights group, and provided to Danger Room. The two groups filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year inquiring about government surveillance of American Muslim communities.

“In order for FBI training to be effective it has to present useful, factual and unbiased information. This material fails on all three criteria,” said Mike German, a former FBI agent who now works for the ACLU. “Factually flawed and biased law enforcement training programs only expand the risk that innocent Muslim and Arab Americans will be unfairly targeted for investigation and prosecution, and stigmatized in their communities.” [Full disclosure: My fiancee works for the ACLU.]

In response to queries from Danger Room, the FBI issued the following statement about the PowerPoint: “The FBI new agent population at Quantico is exposed to a diverse curriculum in many specific areas, including Islam and Muslim culture. The presentation in question was a rudimentary version used for a limited time that has since been replaced. It was a small part of a larger segment of training that also included material produced by the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point.”

It is unclear when the FBI stopped using the PowerPoint.

Among the most provocative aspects of the presentation is its recommended reading list. One book offered is The Truth About Mohammed: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion, by Robert Spencer. Spencer is one of the ringleaders of the protest against the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” and the co-founder of Stop the Islamicization of America, which “promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda,” in the view of the Anti-Defamation League. A manifesto written by the Norwegian terror suspect Anders Behring Breivik cited Spencer 64 times.

Another book cited is The Arab Mind, by Raphael Patai. The volume was briefly infamous in 2004, after Seymour Hersh reported its influence among certain Iraq war hawks in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal. According to Hersh, the takeaway of Patai’s book is that “Arabs only understand force” and are susceptible to “shame and humiliation.”

“It’s like asking law enforcement to learn ‘the facts’ about the African American experience by reading a book by the grand wizard of the KKK,” says Khera. “It is deplorable and offensive that the nation’s top law enforcement agency would promote such hateful so-called ‘experts’ on Islam.”

An FBI spokesman said Spencer’s book is no longer on the reading list but was not sure about the others. “We encourage our agents to seek out a variety of viewpoints. That does not mean we endorse or adopt the view of any particular author,” the bureau’s statement continues. “Broad knowledge is essential for us to better understand and respond to the threats we face. Knowledge also helps us defeat ignorance and strengthen relationships with the diverse communities that we serve.”

When dealing with Muslims and counterterrorism, the FBI’s record is mixed. It’s sent informants into mosques and used operatives to coax suspected extremists into active terror plots, arresting them before anyone was hurt. But its agents also stood up against torture at Guantanamo Bay and in the CIA’s undisclosed prisons. FBI Director Robert Mueller testified in 2008 that many of its terrorism cases “are a result of the cooperation from the Muslim community in the United States.”

In recent years, law enforcement agencies around the country have proven receptive to anti-Muslim crusaders. The Washington Monthly recently reported on the “growing profession” of terrorism consultants who get paid to make “sweeping generalizations about Muslims” to rapt audiences of cops. Adam Serwer at the American Prospect reports that another Breivik favorite, Walid Shoebat, also gets government cash to tell police things like “Islam is the devil.”

At a Capitol Hill event on Monday, a Florida-based researcher named Peter Leitner claimed that up to 6,000 Muslims in America are a “fifth column.” According to Leitner’s official biography, he founded a group called the Higgins Counterterrorism Research Center; Higgins claims to have provided counterterrorism instruction to “FBI Counterterrorism Special Agents,” various police departments countrywide and even Blackwater.

“These characterizations of Islam and of Arab and Muslim people are not just disheartening — they are frightening,” says Veena Dubal, an attorney with the Asian Law Caucus. “Degrading and inaccurate characterizations of Islam and of the ‘Arab mind’ don’t help individual agents fight terrorism. Rather, they imbue law enforcement with an extremely biased view of a diverse community.”

Photo: newmanchu/Flickr

Original post: FBI ‘Islam 101′ Guide Depicted Muslims as 7th-Century Simpletons


  1. Amazing that the FBI of all places can’t get reputable sources of information about Arab culture or history. Geez, what’s wrong with these yoyo’s?


    But then again, why anyone should be surprised…Just read history, and it is there for everyone to see.. How “THEY” are the “civilized” one and “the rest of the world” without exeptions are “savage”..Still after many many centuries, history is proving once more that in fact it is “THEY” WHO ARE IN THE SAVAGES MENTALITY..

  3. sahra,

    wow all the screaming. anyways, who is “THEY”. so the article decries painting with a broad brush. sorry to see you’ve lost your reason again. a wise person once said, TERRORISM …, IT HAS: NO RACE, NO RELIGION, NO CREED, NO NATION, NO INTELLECT..ECT. don’t you think the same would hold true for government stupidity? government stupidity, IT HAS: NO RACE, NO RELIGION, NO CREED, NO NATION, NO INTELLECT..ECT.

    as for stuck in the 7th century. was not the koran written in the 7th century? is not sharia stuck in the 7th century. aren’t you the one who keeps bringing up history? well, you and the norweign seem obsessed with the middleages?

  4. “as for stuck in the 7th century. was not the koran written in the 7th century? is not sharia stuck in the 7th century. aren’t you the one who keeps bringing up history? well, you and the norweign seem obsessed with the middleages? ”

    Firstly, it was revealed in the 7th Century. Secondly, Sharia isn’t “stuck” in any century, God’s law is applicable for all times. Thirdly, Sharia was “more secular” then any law in the world up until the mid 19th century, so were talkbing about a good 12-13 hundred years where people would look at Sharia with complete envy. I mean, it’s hilarious to know that 7th century slavess were better treated and lived a better life then those 19th century european factory workers.

    Now, talking about modern times, not our fault there’s a theft every 10 seconds in America alone, compared to say, Saudi Arabia where the hand cutting law is applied, and we have what, 6 real thefts in 70 years?You wnat us to be sorry for that LoL and say “Sharia is evil and barbaric” lmao. Keep kidding yourself.

    Get real, not everyone’s thinking is close minded and westernized as yours.

  5. perseveranze,

    yes i know not everyone has my westernized mind set. that’s why i find this website so interesting. but isn’t it funny that you call me close minded, while it is you who says that sharia is “God’s law is applicable for all times”. does that mean that it’s unalterable, not open to debate or change? is that not the definition of close minded? if it was revealed, recited, memorized and finally written, (sorry if saying it was written offends you, but at some point someone wrote a koran, in fact didn’t two people write korans? ali had a version?) in the 7th century, and not open to change, again by definition is that not “stuck” in the 7th century. if the truth was revealed in the 7th century, then why be offended by being called stuck in the 7th century? as for: “Sharia was “more secular” then any law in the world up until the mid 19th century”. i have to ask, you are knowledgable on all cultures laws for a thousand years? aboriginal australians, polynesians, inuit, the plains indians, inca, maya, aztecs, etc. plus how can one religous law be “more secular” than another religious law. where there times that the religous parts of sharia where ignored? is not sharia and all encompassing religious law, how can it even be slightly secular? as for slaves vs factory workers you maybe right?

    as for modern times, where do you get the feeling that america is blaming saudi arabia for our crime rate? i know americans who are in favor of hand cutting and public executions. in fact my 6th grade teacher in a catholic school brought it up more than once.

    as for people looking to “Sharia with complete envy”, you maybe right again. that muslims would want to impose sharia is only a natural thing. egypt should tell us alot about the global push to bring back sharia in the next twenty years, maybe even sooner.

    take it easy.

  6. Mike,
    do you know of these s- cultural laws of ”boriginal australians, polynesians, inuit, the plains indians, inca, maya, aztecs, etc.” for compare and contrast or just like listing them for fluff value? Also are you studied in Sharia law or just taken the two examples your media likes to dish out to make a non-case? Sharia law is a judicial matter, it takes study in jurisprudence and is multifactorial in fact not so black and white as you paint. I’d venture say most Muslims know very little about sharia’a and can guarantee that a pathologically logorrehic ‘westerner’ knows even less..


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