Tennessee County Sheriff’s Office Brings In Anti-Muslim Speaker To Train Officers About Muslim Culture

A former FBI agent who has said a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee has no legal right to exist will be training the county sheriff’s department about Muslim culture and terrorism threats. John Guandolo, vice president of the Strategic Engagement Group, will lead the training for Rutherford County officers at the World Outreach Church in Murfressboro.

Speaking at another Tennessee church in November, Guandolo said local mosques are front organizations for the Muslim Brotherhood. “They do not have a First Amendment right to do anything,” Guandolo said then. And the pastor at World Outreach Church, the Rev. Allen Jackson, urged the Rutherfod County Commission to not allow a mosque to be built in Murfreesboro. “I would submit to you that we have a duty here at home to understand thoroughly the nature, the intent, the funding of any group that is being invited into our community under that general banner (of Islam),” Jackson told the commission in July 2010.

Rutherford Sheriff Robert Arnold defended the training, saying his department only wants to find out more about Islam. “There are not many classes out there for anything when it comes to Muslims … but this training isn’t just about that, it has many other components to it,” he told the Tennessean. “My stance is and my office’s stance is, we are not here to pick sides. I am here to protect the people of this county, and I am never going to waiver from that.” But local Muslims said they weren’t asked to join the training:

Saleh Sbenaty, a member of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, said the sheriff’s office never asked local Muslims to participate in the training. He said the department is supposed to protect the rights of citizens no matter what their faith.

Using a trainer who thinks Muslims have no civil rights doesn’t make sense, he said.

This training is hate training,” Sbenaty said. “It is not training to keep our whole community safe.”

On Tuesday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national Muslim civil rights group, asked the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Director Brian Grisham to “investigate the appropriateness” of the week-long training. CAIR points out that the Rutherford Sheriff’s Department “is responsible for investigating an arson and repeated acts of vandalism at the construction site of a planned mosque in Murfreesboro that has faced fierce opposition since it was first proposed.”


Previously, the FBI has come under fire for teaching counterterrorism trainees about Islam using anti-Muslim materials. Spencer Ackerman reports that an internal investigation at the bureau so far has purged hundreds of pages of material about Muslims — some characterizing them as prone to violence or terrorism — from presentations given to agents.