Notorious anti-Muslim extremist and self-described former terrorist Walid Shoebat was paid an estimated $6,000, likely at taxpayers’ expense, to deliver a “counter-terrorism” seminar to police representing Ocean County, New Jersey, last week.
Shoebat, a Lebanon-born former Muslim turned evangelical Christian, has previously called Islam “the devil” and is the author of the book The Case For Islamophobia: Jihad by the Word; America’s Final Warning. His bigotry is not exclusive to only Muslims either. Shoebat has also amassed an extensive record of stridently anti-gay remarks over the years.
Prior to the November 2 seminar, Ocean County Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy was contacted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the state Attorney General’s Office, and other local Muslim groups requesting the event be canceled on account of Shoebat’s anti-Muslim extremism and past statements.
But according to the Asbury Park Press, Mastronardy said it was too late to pull the plug on the event and promised “the police academy will do a better job in the future of vetting guest speakers booked through third parties.” The event was booked by Courses Offering Police Specialization (COPS), an organization founded by Mitch Cowit — a New Jersey detective with the Jackson Township Police Department.
The Press reported that 62 officers attended the seminar ,which was titled, “Know Your Enemy” and was said to have lasted for three hours. Unsurprisingly, anti-Muslim sentiment was prevalent during the seminar. Mastronardy even admitted so, saying the core of Shoebat’s message was that “Muslims need to be watched.”
“His comments could easily be perceived as negative against the Muslim community,” Mastronardy added.
Along with advocating unconstitutional and unjust mass surveillance of New Jersey’s Muslim community, Shoebat also mixed in outlandish conspiracy theories. In one instance, for example, Shoebat urged police to inspect local martial arts centers as they could serve as terrorist training camps.
Shoebat claimed local law enforcement “should be checking local dojos to see if Muslims are taking martial arts classes — the insinuation being that they may be in physical training for terrorist activity,” the Press reported.
Worse yet, Shoebat’s training comes on the heels of a newly-reinstated lawsuit against the the New York Police Department charging Muslims in New Jersey were unjustly monitored following the events of September 11, 2001. The NYPD’s controversial and arguably unconstitutional mass surveillance policies have caused harm to, and sown mistrust of, Muslims in both New York City and New Jersey.
Numerous media outlets have featured exposés on Shoebat’s highly questionable terrorist past. In 2010, The Washington Post published a piece challenging his life story and time he purportedly spent as a terrorist. And in 2011, CNN debuted a two-part report presenting Shoebat as a fraud.
Despite all the evidence against Shoebat’s credibility — and push-back from local Muslim community leaders and government officials — it’s baffling how last week’s $6,000 seminar was allowed to continue. Disturbingly, this isn’t the first time Shoebat has presented to Ocean County police. He has previously given two other seminars to county law enforcement on similar topics, according to the Press.
This, however speaks to a larger and no-less disturbing trend throughout the country of self-ascribed terrorism “experts” (read: anti-Muslim opportunists) providing law enforcement trainings steeped in personal biases against Islam. One of the most notable individuals courting law enforcement is John Guandolo, a disgraced former FBI agent turned full-time anti-Muslim conspiracist.
Sheriff Mastronardy says procedures are in place to ensure Shoebat is not invited back and future instructors are vetted. Let’s hope this is true and that other law enforcement agencies throughout the country follow suit.