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Article updated: 8/16/2013 12:01 AM

Islamic group protests police trainer coming to Lombard

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An organization that puts on training seminars for police is refusing to cancel a counterterrorism session Monday in Lombard, despite objections from an Islamic group about the main presenter.

The Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations claims presenter Sam Kharoba is a "notorious anti-Muslim bigot," and plans to hold a news conference in protest outside Lombard village hall during the presentation.

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"Our state's law enforcement agencies should work with credible leaders of the Muslim community to address any issues related to Islam," CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab said Thursday.

The council is protesting because the North East Multi-Regional Training group (NEMRT) hired Kharoba, who in 2011 told Washington Monthly that "anyone who says that Islam is a religion of peace is either ignorant or flat out lying."

The publication also quoted Kharoba as saying he gets "a very nasty image" when he "look(s) at the life of Muhammad."

Kharoba could not immediately be reached for comment, but NEMRT Director Phil Brankin denied the class is "anti-Islamic."

"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."

The North Aurora-based training group initially planned three suburban sessions featuring Kharoba. But seminars in Elmhurst and Highland Park were canceled last week because of low enrollment, according to Brankin.

Lombard Police Chief Ray Byrne said it's common for police agencies, including his own, to provide NEMRT with space for training sessions on topics such as fingerprinting and officer safety.

He said he was unaware of the type of training slated to begin Monday.

"We provide a classroom and that's it," Byrne said without further comment.

This is not the first time Kharoba has taught for NEMRT. Brankin said the presenter made numerous appearances since 2011.

The seminars delve into the Islamic faith and culture, including "issues related to dignity and honor, gender concerns, marriage, social interactions (and) family," Brankin said.

"(Kharoba) talks about all of these as they are in the Islamic culture and religion so police officers can establish better communication with members of the Islamic community," he said. "He talks about understanding the world perspective as seen through Islamic eyes."

Asked about Kharoba's controversial quotes, Brankin defended the presenter.

"Is he allowed to insult Muhammad? I'd have to say, yeah, in America you can insult the prophet," Brankin said. "You can look at certain facts of Muhammad's life and draw conclusions. They may not be the same conclusions CAIR draws."

Brankin said NEMRT would continue to work with Kharoba in the future.

CAIR spokeswoman Maryam Arain said the council has sent letters about Kharoba to participating police agencies, urging them to withdraw their support.

"It's quite obvious this guy is a notorious anti-Muslim bigot, so to call him in as an expert on Islam is highly problematic," she said. "We could help facilitate something so things like this aren't happening."

Staff writer Marie Wilson contributed to this report.

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