Imagine a white supremacist being paid with taxpayer dollars to teach police officers about Black Lives Matter. Or a person with a long history of demonizing the LGBT community being hired by your local police department to warn officers about the “homosexual agenda.”
The response to either of these scenarios would be an explosion of outrage. And rightfully so. However, a scenario very similar is repeatedly happening across our country with law enforcement agencies teaming up with two anti-Muslim activists, John Guandolo and Walid Shoebat, to teach them about Muslims.
Typically these anti-Muslim indoctrinations happen with police departments in red states (shocking, I know.) But surprisingly the Ocean County Police Academy in southern New Jersey sponsored a lecture given by Shoebat just this past weekend. Shoebat’s seminar was intended for police officers in the South Jersey area and was titled “Know your enemy.” (One guess who the enemy is.)
So who is Shoebat? Well, that’s a great question. The problem is that no one—except Shoebat—truly knows. As CNN reported, Shoebat’s claimed life story is simply not true. Shoebat boasts that he’s a former radicalized Muslim who joined the PLO in the 1970s, carried out a terrorist attack, and was imprisoned by the Israeli military. But then Shoebat saw the error of his ways, converted to Christianity and has since been making a living stoking the flames of hate versus Muslims.
But none of that appears to be true, except converting to Christianity and earning big bucks demonizing Muslims. As CNN’s Anderson Cooper reported, after speaking to Shoebat’s childhood friends and researching government records, there was no indication that Shoebat had ever been a radical Muslim, involved in terrorism or imprisoned by the Israelis. Instead Shoebat’s friends described him as a “regular guy” who simply moved to the United States at 18 years old to make a new life as a computer programmer.
What we do know about Shoebat is that he has publicly stated that “all Islamic organizations in America should be the No. 1 enemy. All of them.” And as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has noted, Shoebat has told law enforcement organizations that “Islam is not the religion of God—Islam is the devil.”
Shoebat, like many other right-wing anti-Muslim activists, also has a history of demonizing the LGBT community. Shoebat recently likened homosexuality to cannibalism, and his website is filled with horrifically anti-gay articles such as “Homosexuals in the military are raping and molesting tens of thousands of American soldiers.”
Despite this history of anti-gay and anti-Muslim rhetoric, The Asbury Park Press reported that Shoebat was paid about $6,000 for his lecture this past weekend, with thousands of that fee coming from taxpayer dollars. (Apparently the police there don’t know how to use Google.)
And then there’s Guandolo. At first blush his record appears to be impressive. He’s a former U.S. Marine officer and an ex-FBI agent. But what Guandolo’s bio on his website leaves out is that he resigned from the FBI in 2008 after “a number of ethical breaches and bizarre conduct.”
Guandolo was caught by his FBI supervisors having a sexual relationship with a star witness in a political corruption case, having extramarital affairs with several FBI agents, and trying to persuade a witness to donate $75,000 to an anti-Muslim group.
Guandolo resigned from the FBI shortly before the bureau’s Office of Professional Responsibility began its formal investigation. So how does a former FBI agent who has left the bureau dishonorably make a living? Easy, bash Muslims.
Soon Guandolo began partnering with organizations that the SPLC has labeled as anti-Muslim groups, such as Act for America and Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy. These organizations, as I have noted in the past, have turned stoking the flames of hate toward Muslims into a lucrative business.
Some of Guandolo’s “greatest hits” have been declaring that American Muslims “do not have a First Amendment right to do anything.” He has repeatedly claimed that CIA Director John Brennan is a Muslim as well as alleging that President Obama is actively aiding al Qaeda and should be removed from office. Guandolo has also asserted (without any credible evidence) that 80 percent of the mosques in America are controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Despite Guandolo’s track record of personal misconduct and outright lies, as recently as August he was teaching law enforcement officials in Denver about combating the “jihadi threat at the local level.”
Thankfully, due to increased media attention, we have recently witnessed several law enforcement organizations distancing themselves from these two. For example, in 2014 a Kansas sheriff refused to partner with a group sponsoring Guandolo’s training after a local media outlet published info about Guandolo’s checkered past. And a Virginia police academy rescinded offering in-service training credit for attending Guandolo’s seminar.
In the case of Shoebat, it’s unlikely that he will be back in New Jersey peddling hate. The Ocean County Sheriff, Michael G. Mastronardy, after being made aware of Shoebat’s history, disavowed Shoebat’s appearance, telling the local media, “We’re taking the appropriate steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
People like Shoebat and Guandolo have the right—which I defend—to spew hate, just as the Klan does. But these lessons in bigotry shouldn’t be paid for with our tax dollars.
And putting the money issue aside, we all want our police officers to be properly trained by objectively credible teachers so that they learn how to keep us safe from radicals of any background, be they Muslim, anti-government, Christian extremists, etc. But the lectures of Shoebat and Guandolo aren’t making us safer, they are simply teaching good people to hate.