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If You Want to Learn About Islam, Do You Ask an Imam?

An editorial in The Tennessean yesterday blasted a Rutherford County Counter Terrorism program sponsored by  Sheriff Robert Arnold with this headline, “Anti-Muslim 'training' is fearmongering." What was the Sheriff’s offense according to the editors?

In a county that has been torn emotionally for nearly two years over the right of local Muslims to build a new Islamic center, the top law enforcement officer is attempting to indoctrinate his deputies with concepts of religious bigotry against a portion of the population that they are pledged to protect.


When Sheriff Arnold explains that his department simply wants to learn about Muslim culture, the situation collapses into absurdity.

Should anyone of sound mind trust a man who makes such statements? The sheriff has further explaining to do.

If you want to learn about Islam, ask an imam.

Sheriff Arnold in Rutherford County is to be commended for his courage and independence of mind for putting on the Strategic Engagement Group (SEG) counter-terrorism program for his deputies. The Tennessee Freedom Coalition funded the SEG program and the World Outreach Church that hosted it also did the community a real service by providing a venue and hosting arrangements. 

I can’t say the same for Bob Smietana and the editorial staff at The Tennessean. They have engaged in promoting hysteria over the SEG program. They even reached out to Jim Cavanaugh, a former ATF official involved with the Columbia mosque burning of 2008 to malign Sheriff Arnold’s initiative without reviewing the instructional materials. Smietana, not content with his own biased reporting and the published opinion of The Tennessean's editorial staff, used Cavanaugh's hysterical blog post from the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center  (SPLC) in Montgomery, Alabama, Hatewatch. Cavanaugh’s statement was:

"Reject the haters, Sheriff Arnold, and reorganize your training,” he wrote. “Don’t drink from the poison cup of hate, no matter how sweet they tell you it will taste. Leave the hate to the far reaches of the Internet, and don’t put it in front of a police training classroom. It doesn’t belong there. I want you to succeed, Sheriff Arnold, in the right way and for the right reasons."

What SEG and Sheriff Arnold did was to present information to the deputies on the core Islamic doctrine that violates the human rights of women, gays, unbelievers, and minorities, including those who have left Islam by personal choice. The Tennesseean journalists and editors have forgotten that the First Amendment guarantees the right to criticize a religion, especially one that uses freedom of worship, as a platform to preach its inhumane doctrine. Rather than reviewing and refuting the materials presented, Cavanaugh charged Sheriff Arnold with "hate." This seems to be the default position for those opposed to telling the truth about Islam. Those who state the facts are hatemongers by defnition.  

One only need look at the transformation of Eric Allen Bell, the documentarian who was formerly a sharp critic of those concerned about Islamic doctrine and Shariah in Rutherford County. Bell was an item during the controversial Chancery Court Hearings in the visitor gallery as an attack videographer harassing and filming local activists opposed to the expanded mosque. Those disputatious hearings were over the Rutherford County approvals to build an expanded Islamic Center of Murfreesboro (ICM). I knew Bell’s previous positions as he and some of his colleagues criticized my coverage of the ICM controversy in several articles in the NER and posts on our blog, The Iconoclast.   

Bell has apparently had a minor epiphany after delving into Islamic doctrine, the Arab Spring and the Muslim Brotherhood. He even took the advice of The Tennessean editors and shot footage of Imam Bahloul of the ICM that answered the question at the end of yesterday’s Tennesssean, editorial. To find out about Islam ask an Imam.  Here is what Bell discovered as conveyed in a FrontPageMagazine article , “The High Price of Telling The Truth About Islam”,  that contributed to his transformation from a defender of the ICM to an opponent of Islamic doctrine. Note this from the reformed Bell discussing the reactions from some backers of his documentary in Los Angeles:

I showed them footage of the Imam in Murfreesboro condoning stoning, admitting that Mohammed had stoned someone to death, saying that women cannot be trusted with money because they are irrational. Then I pointed out that a board member of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was investigated after pictures from his MySpace page had surfaced indicating his strong sympathies for Hamas.

Sheriff Arnold knew about Bell’s revelations, as local activist Elizabeth Coker had presented those facts in a Public Safety Committee presentation in Rutherford County in the fall of 2010. See the You Tube video of that presentation, here.

The Tennessean launched a broadside against the Rutherford County Sheriff’s sponsoring  the  SEG program in another Smietana article, “Law enforcement urged to pick anti-terror courses with care”. The article  praised a politically correct alternative program scheduled for February 27-28th.  That program involves alleged  “experts from the national Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council and the Combating Terrorism Task Force at West Point. Muslim speakers will explain Islam and its code of conduct.”

The Smietana piece offered this comment from one of the program presenters:

“There is a lot of misinformation out there from people who don’t understand Islam,” said Jonathan White, director of the Homeland Defense Initiative at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.

White has worked with the Department of Justice, trained employees of overseas embassies and worked with Muslims who oppose terrorism.

The Nashville training includes information on religious extremism and domestic terrorism, but also includes Muslim speakers. The Joint Terrorism Task Force and Tennessee Office of Homeland Security also are involved.

Lou Ann Zelnick of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition that funded the Rutherford County SEG program when interviewed commented:

We don’t need political correctness when it comes to training our police and sheriffs. This is accurate information. It’s not part of any agenda.

Smietana zeroed in on two of the SEG presenters, Stephen Coughlin, former Pentagon consultant on the Islamic Law of Warfare under Shariah and John Guandolo a former FBI Counter Terrorism expert on Islamic doctrine. 

The leaders of SEG have been embroiled in past controversy. According to published reports, Stephen Coughlin, one of the group’s vice presidents, lost his job as a consultant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff after clashing with Pentagon officials in 2008.

Guandolo’s supporters say he left the FBI for being too outspoken about the threat of Muslim terrorists. He claims the FBI and other parts of the federal government have been infiltrated by agents of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Coughlin was forced out of his position as an expert on Islamic warfare doctrine by Heshem Islam, the former Muslim outreach aide to Bush Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, Gordon English. Islam accused Coughlin of being “a Christian fanatic with a pen.”  Both Coughlin and Guandolo are among the co-authors of  Shariah: The Threat to America. (An Exercise in Competitive Analysis—Report of Team 'B' II) published by the Center for Security Policy, whose President, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. testified during the 2010 ICM Murfreesboro Chancery Court Hearings.

Patrick Poole, veteran counterterrorism analyst, posed a question in a Pajamas Media article Secrecy Surrounds Conference to Train Cops on ‘Political Violence’ about the mysterious Muslim group involved in the alternative program promoted by Smietana in The Tennessean:

Despite inquiries by PJ Media in recent weeks, the conference organizers have refused to provide any details about who will be instructing law enforcement officials on these issues.

Last week I requested a copy of the agenda and speakers for the conference from the U.S. Attorney’s contact listed on the conference flyer. This past Monday I received a response from David Boling, the U.S. Attorney’s public information officer:

Your request for the documents referenced below was forwarded to me for disposition. This training conference is not open to the public; therefore you would need to file a FOIA request for this information.

It is unclear what the event being closed to the public has anything to do with providing the information I requested, especially since it appears that two private outside organizations will be directly involved in providing the training.

Perhaps the presence and agendas of these outside organizations are why these government agencies are stonewalling requests for information. Mystery surrounds one of the private partner organizations for the terrorism training — the American Muslim Advisory Council — which is listed on the event flyer as a partner in the conference.


As I reported exclusively here at PJ Media back in November, Congress included language in the most recent budget continuing resolution to require the FBI to report ongoing contacts with such organizations in an effort to force the FBI to follow its own announced policies in this regard.

However, that hasn’t stopped the White House from pushing ongoing engagement with some of these same organizations, despite criticism directed at similar state-appointed Muslim advisory councils for including leaders of terror-tied organizations.

If anything, the shroud of secrecy that Tennessee officials are exhibiting with respect to this upcoming terrorism conference is raising questions that need to be answered.

The Tennessean, is perpetrating a lie that by asking an Imam or a representative from Muslim Brotherhood fronts, CAIR and ISNA the truth will be revealed to non-Muslims about the way of Allah. In one sense it did for Eric Allen Bell. At least Bell knows better after searching for the truth about Islam.

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