The Minnesota chapter of Hamas front group CAIR (Council on Anti-American Islamic Relations) asked the Waite Park Police Department and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud to reject the training event, “Understanding the People of Somalia.” The CAIR-MN message also objected to the description of al-Shabaab as an ‘Islamic extremist terrorism’ organization because it fails to distinguish between Islam and terrorism. (There is no difference)
SC Times A CAIR-MN spokeswoman says the training seminar, a version of which was sharply criticized in 2011 when it was given to other Minnesota law-enforcement agencies, inaccurately conflates Somalis and Muslims with terrorism. The group also is critical of the former Ramsey County sheriff who’s leading the presentation.
Islamic and Somali organizations said That an upcoming educational seminar on Somalia organized by former Ramsey County sheriff Bob Fletcher is anti-Muslim and anti-Somali and will lead to a rise in racial and religious profiling.
The seminar brochure says training will be provided on al-Shabaab, “an Islamic Extremist Organization,” and says that topics covered will include “Clans and Sub Clans,” “Black Hawk Down,” “Youth Gangs,” “Transition to America” and “Somali Culture.”
But Waite Park Police Chief Dave Bentrud says the event is simply a bid to better understand the local Somali population. Spokespersons for Waite Park police and Catholic Charities also say the training presentation was revised Monday to reflect concerns that the terror group al-Shabaab could be unfairly portrayed as being linked to Islam as a whole.
A flier for the training event lists al-Shabaab as an “Islamic Extremist” organization. Al-Shabaab, a Somalia-based al-Qaeda affiliate, has been listed as a foreign terrorist organization since 2008, according to the U.S. State Department.
CAIR-MN executive director Lori Saroya said the flier unfairly suggests the activities of al-Shabaab are rooted in or supported by Islam. “What they’re doing is outside of Islam and should not be affiliated with our religion,” Saroya said.
Bentrud said Tuesday’s event will be led by former Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, whose involvement is a key concern for CAIR-MN. The group points to claims by a spokesman for his successor in the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, Matt Bostrom, that Fletcher exaggerated the threat of terrorism in the metro area while he was sheriff.
His critics don’t like the fact that Fletcher mentions religion at all when he describes al-Shabab, the Somali group with links to al-Qaida, as an “Islamic extremist terrorism organization.” The Muslim community rejects this biased labeling of a religion practiced by over 1.4 billion people worldwide.
Saroya said she doesn’t expect CAIR-MN or other Muslim organizations to attend because they don’t want to legitimize the event. She said efforts to learn about Somali history and culture are welcome and likely well-intended. But Saroya urged Waite Park police and Catholic Charities to find a different way to do so.
In November 2011, more than 30 Twin Cities Somali and Muslim organizations challenged the credibility of a similar training event and police departments across the state declined to participate.