ALEXANDRIA (AP) — A Muslim civil rights group is urging a Louisiana district attorney to cancel a training seminar on investigating "jihadi operations" in the U.S., calling it biased and a misuse of taxpayer money.
Rapides Parish District Attorney Phillip Terrell's office said in a statement Thursday that it was "surprised at the objections" to this week's training seminar in Alexandria. The statement suggests the three-day seminar will proceed as planned.
"If this training saves one life, it is worth it," it says.
In a letter to Terrell on Wednesday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said a group founded by former FBI agent John Guandolo is offering the training. CAIR's letter calls Guandolo a "notorious Islamophobe and anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist."
"This training is going to teach law-enforcement officers to view local Muslim communities as a terrorism threat," CAIR government affairs director Robert McCaw said during a telephone interview Thursday. "The fact that this district attorney refuses to address Guandolo's hate speech and conspiracy theories discredits this very training."
Guandolo declined to be interviewed.
McCaw's letter to Terrell says Cedar Valley College in Lancaster, Texas, canceled a similar event last June after CAIR's Dallas-Fort Worth chapter objected to Guandolo's involvement.
Terrell's office said approximately 180 law-enforcement officials are registered for the Alexandria seminar, which is scheduled to run from Tuesday through Thursday. Its statement also says that conducting the seminar costs $12,500 but doesn't elaborate on the source of the funding.
"It is simply to educate our law enforcement community to the potential of terrorism faced by our nation," the statement says. "It is critical that we do everything in our power to protect our community from any threat whether it is drug dealing, violent crime or terrorism."
The district attorney's statement also includes a written endorsement of Guandolo's organization, Understanding the Threat, by a Louisiana sheriff who is president of the National Sheriff's Association. St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne's letter says Guandolo's group offers the only training program that "actually gives officers ways to proactively find terrorists in their communities."
A summary of this week's seminar says topics will include a history of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S. and "instruction on doctrinal Sharia (Islamic Law)."
"Specific investigative techniques will be discussed giving students the ability to identify and pursue jihadis in local jurisdictions," it says.
Mohammed Mohammed, 61, of Pineville, said he and several other members of the Islamic Society of Central Louisiana had a meeting Friday with the district attorney to discuss the training seminar. Mohammed said they support anti-terrorism training for law enforcement but object to the involvement of Guandolo's group.
"We want them to have it from a legitimate source, not like this person here," he said of Guandolo. "He's a biased person."
Terrell didn't respond to a text message seeking comment on Friday's meeting. Mohammed said the district attorney promised to carefully review the training program offered by Guandolo's group and get back to them.
"He was nice. He listened very carefully at what we had to say," Mohammed said on Saturday.
Guandolo resigned from the FBI in 2008 after he engaged in a sexual relationship with a woman who was a government informant in the Justice Department's case against a former Louisiana congressman. Guandolo had posed as the woman's driver during the investigation of former Rep. William Jefferson, who was convicted of corruption charges in 2009.