A police counterterrorism training seminar scheduled for Monday in Lombard was canceled Friday following objections from an Islamic group who have called the main presenter an “anti-Muslim bigot.”
The North Aurora-based North East Multi-Regional Training group had scheduled the training session with Sam Kharoba next week at Lombard’s village hall, but Village President Keith Giagnorio and Police Chief Ray Byrne canceled the session following a lobbying effort by the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and one-time Lombard village president candidate Moon Khan.
“Moon reached out to me to say, ‘Hey you know what Keith? What’s true or is not true (about Kharoba) — this just isn’t right and this speaker is sticking a stick in a hive,'” Giagnorio said. “When this firestorm started — there’s no way in hell we’re going to get involved.”
Giagnorio said there was “no room for that” in Lombard, a community that is home to mosques, an Islamic college preparatory school and a growing Muslim population.
Lombard was planning to provide classroom space for the training session at village hall, but only send four of its own police officers to attend, Giagnorio said.
Officers from various law enforcement agencies in the suburbs were signed up for the NEMRT session.
When reached by phone Friday afternoon, Kharoba, director of the Cape Coral, Fla.-based Counter Terrorism Operations Center, said he was unaware Monday’s training session had been canceled. He declined to provide additional comment.
Sessions in Elmhurst and Highland Park were canceled last week because of low enrollment.
CAIR-Chicago has objected to Kharoba because of statements he made in a 2011 Washington Monthly article. The publication quoted him as saying, “Anyone who says that Islam is a religion of peace is either ignorant or flat out lying,” and that he gets “a very nasty image” when he “look(s) at the life of Muhammad.”
NEMRT Director Phil Brankin couldn’t be reached for comment late Friday, but in an article that ran Thursday in the Daily Herald, he stood by Kharoba and the training class.
“We’re satisfied that what he teaches is accurate,” Brankin said. “He is a good teacher and, if CAIR feels otherwise, they are more than capable of running training programs for law enforcement that they feel represent their view.”
Officials at CAIR-Chicago said Friday in a news release that they’re pleased Lombard won’t be hosting Kharoba, thanking Giagnorio “for his commitment to high standards of training” and Khan for bringing the matter to Giagnorio’s attention.
But the advocacy group expressed objections with Brankin’s continued support of Kharoba.
“We will settle for nothing less than the highest standards of training for our police departments in the great state of Illinois,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of CAIR-Chicago, in a statement. “Counterterrorism is much too important to be confounded with anti-Islam dribble from a biased and unqualified trainer whose record of false and problematic anti-Islam generalizations has long been exposed.”
Kharoba has made numerous appearances for NEMRT since 2011 in which he delves into Islamic faith and culture “so police officers can establish better communication with members of the Islamic community,” according to Brankin.