Another day....another complaint by Muslims. Recently over a dozen US Islamic organizations have made it clear that they do not care for how the authorities handle the threat of Islamic terrorism. American Muslims have now added a Seattle police training program to their list of complaints. All because the program is run by a by a Jewish organization.
Muslims criticize producers of Seattle police training program
The Seattle Police Department is going ahead with a racial-awareness training program that some local Muslims object to — not because of its content, but because of its sponsor, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center.
By Janet I. Tu
Seattle Times staff reporter
Saying it's not going to take sides in someone else's feud, the Seattle Police Department is going ahead with a racial-awareness training program that has raised concerns among some local Muslims.
They are troubled not by the content of the training program but by the organization that produced it: the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a 32-year-old Los Angeles-based Jewish human-rights organization perhaps best known for its Holocaust education work.
They accuse the Wiesenthal Center of spreading fear toward Islam by producing or promoting films about extremism within Islam. And they, like many other Muslims elsewhere, are also angry at the center for building a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem partially on top of what once was an ancient Muslim cemetery.
"The center has an anti-Muslim agenda, to be frank," contends Arsalan Bukhari, president of the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The Wiesenthal Center disagrees.
The disputed land on which the Jerusalem museum is being built has been used as a parking lot for about the past 50 years, according to the center. And Liebe Geft, director of the center's Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, says the films in question take on anti-Semitism and the dangers of a small subsection of Islam, not Islam as a whole.
The center "does not condemn Islam. It actively confronts Islamophobia," Geft said.
The Seattle Police Department got caught in the middle when it began looking for a training program for employees on race issues.
It found Perspectives on Profiling, a Wiesenthal Center program geared toward people in law enforcement. The program features interactive exercises and vignettes on CD-ROM of real-life scenarios officers might encounter.
The goal is to make officers more conscious of what and how they think about race, and how their thinking might affect the split-second decisions they make on the streets every day.
The department considered other programs but "this was far and away the best quality," said Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer. The cost was also "remarkably low," he said: about $18,000.
Nationwide, about 17,900 officers have gone through Perspectives on Profiling training at the Wiesenthal Center's facilities in Los Angeles and New York.
An additional 24 organizations have purchased the program. And about 100,000 people have gone through the Wiesenthal Center's broader programs for law enforcement, Geft said.
So far, about 28 people from the Seattle Police Department have been through the training program. Some will, in turn, train the rest of the department's employees, starting perhaps as early as this fall.
In time, the department also hopes to offer the training to the community at large.
That decision disappoints a local coalition composed of mainly Muslims, but including people of other faiths as well.
They say Seattle police should not be undertaking training sponsored by a group they believe is spreading fear of Muslims, regardless of how good the training is.
They point to, for instance, the center producing the film "Ever Again," which the Museum of Tolerance describes as exposing "the dangerous Islamic extremism and culture of death being preached from the mosques of Europe's major cities."
Geft, the Museum of Tolerance director, says moderate Muslims who criticize extremists have prominent voices in the film and "every exhibit in the museum does the same. We don't want to leave the image of the radical extremist representing all Muslims."
At one point, Seattle police considered asking the Wiesenthal Center to remove its name from the training here — a course of action the department ultimately decided not to follow.
While respecting that people feel strongly about the issue, "we can't put ourselves in the middle," Kimerer said. "Our goal is to find the best quality training."
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