75 Organizations Demand White House End Bigoted Trainings
by Junaid Sulahry
Muslim Advocates along with a diverse coalition of 75 organizations, including the NAACP, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Lambda Legal and other leading civil and privacy rights organizations, sent a letter to Lisa Monaco, the President’s counterterrorism advisor, demanding immediate attention to the ongoing problem of anti-Muslim training materials and practices by federal agencies. The letter comes on the heels of a July report in The Intercept that highlights systemic discriminatory practices by federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies, including the use of racist slurs in official documents.
“We have been asking the White House to end bigoted trainings and practices by law enforcement for years, were assured the problem would be addressed with a keen sense of urgency, but now learn that the administration fell far short of fixing the problem,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy and educational organization. “Bigotry cannot be tolerated at any level of government, and the administration needs to take decisive steps to eradicate bigoted training once and for all.”
The letter asks the White House to audit all federal law enforcement and intelligence-gathering training materials and remove all discriminatory matter, re-train agents who have been subjected to biased training, hold accountable those who create and use bigoted materials, and use federal funds only for trainings that respect our nation’s values and treat all citizens with respect.
“The NSA used the word ‘raghead’ in official training materials,” said Nadia Kayyali, activist at EFF. “That’s not something you fix with just cultural sensitivity training. The slur revealed institutional bias as well as general disregard for bedrock American principles of freedom of religion and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. This requires a comprehensive response and people need to be held accountable.”
The letter highlights examples of biased trainers used by law enforcement, which include John Guandolo, a former FBI counterterrorism official who believes CIA Director John Brennan is a “closet Muslim” and has trained agents that “mainstream” Muslims should be treated as supporters of terrorism.
“Pernicious media stereotypes create enough difficulty in our communities; they should not be condoned and reinforced in law enforcement training materials,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF. “Community security is seriously undermined when officers are led to act based upon bias and stereotype.”
“We join this letter because, as members of communities historically targeted by police, we know too well the harm caused by bias, profiling and stereotyping by law enforcement agencies and indeed by society as a whole,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, senior counsel and director of the Law & Policy Project, Lambda Legal. “Anti-Muslim, racial and ethnic biases affect Muslim members of many communities, including LGBT and immigrant communities, and use of any kind of stereotyping or profiling undermines the effectiveness of law enforcement and harms us all.”
To read the coalition letter, click here.
To learn more about the history of this problem, click here.
Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization working on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths. Through high impact lawsuits, policy advocacy, and community education, Muslim Advocates serves as a resource to empower communities and ensures that the American Muslim community is heard by the courts and leaders at the highest level of government. To learn more about action taken related to this letter or for quotes or additional background on your reporting please contact Fatima Khan or visit Muslim Advocates at http://www.muslimadvocates.org and follow @muslimadvocates