(CNSNews.com) - As part of a recent emergency preparedness drill in south-central Illinois, law enforcement personnel stormed a "mosque" where radical gunman were holding hostages.
The "gunmen" and hostages were playing a part, and the building wasn't really a mosque. And that bothers an Islamic advocacy group.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) opposes the stereotyping of Muslims as radicals.
"The use of a fake 'mosque' in this type of drill sends the wrong message to law enforcement officials who may now view mainstream institutions, such as Islamic houses of worship, as potential security threats," said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of CAIR's Chicago chapter.
According to the Hillsboro, Ill., Journal-News, dozens of government agencies took part in last week's training exercise in the town of Irving.
A local addiction treatment center was re-named the "Irving mosque" for purposes of the drill.
Officers from the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS) stormed the "mosque" in an armored car. One "hostage" was wired with "explosives," and the "suspects" in the "mosque" released nerve gas.
The Journal-News quoted the local emergency management director Diana Holmes as thanking everyone involved -- "especially the folks in Irving who allowed us to use their community for this exercise. The ladies who did all the food prep did an excellent job," she told the paper.
CAIR said it agrees that law enforcement officers should be trained to deal with hostage-taking as well as chemical, biological and bomb attacks. "We are only questioning the wisdom of linking the American Muslim community and its institutions to such incidents," Ahmed Rehab said.
In the news release, Rehab pointed to the remarks of FBI Director Robert Mueller, who told a congressional hearing in April that "99.9 percent of Muslim-Americans or Sikh-Americans, Arab-Americans are every bit as patriotic as anybody else in this room." In his testimony, Mueller also hailed the U.S. Muslim community for its cooperation with law enforcement.
This is not the first time CAIR has questioned police training methods.
Last month in Pennsylvania, CAIR-PA objected to a training course offered by the Municipal Police Officers' Education & Training Commission (MPOETC). One of the mandatory training classes was called "Radical Islam: A Law Enforcement Primer." The topics covered included the roots of radical ideology, the concepts of jihad and martyrdom, and recognizing groups that follow a radical philosophy.
In a letter to the MPOETC training director, CAIR-PA Civil Rights Director Justin Peyton wrote, "We are concerned that this course may provide inaccurate, incomplete or stereotypical information about Islam to state law enforcement officers and could serve to reinforce negative stereotypes of Muslims and Islam."
The letter also offered CAIR's assistance in providing a "balanced and accurate portrayal of Islam and Muslims to Pennsylvania police officers."
CAIR offers diversity and sensitivity training to corporations and government agencies at the local, state and national levels.
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