September 15th, 2011
11:12 PM ET
By Brian Todd and Dugald McConnell, CNN
Washington (CNN)–The passages are startling. One refers to the Prophet Mohammed as a "Cult leader for a small inner circle."
Another says Mohammed "ordered the assassinations and executions of his critics." One after another, the phrases depict Islam, its writings and leaders, as violent and bent on conquest.
What's even more startling: These passages were written by an FBI analyst, they were shown as part of a training program for agents, and the author believes mainstream Muslims believe all this, not just the extremist wing.
The phrases are in slide presentations given to FBI agents at the bureau's training facility in Quantico, Virginia. They were written by an FBI analyst. The slides were first posted by Wired magazine, which says it received them from "FBI whistle blowers."
At the beginning of the presentation, there is a disclaimer: "The views expressed in this presentation are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any entity of the United States government."
Then, in a section entitled "Strategic Themes and Drivers in Islamic Law," it lays out ideas the author attributes to Mohammed and mainstream Muslims that often seem like they're in a jihadist manifesto.
One section lays out "Just War" principles of Islam, which claims Muslims believe "War is the rule and peace is only temporary." Another section describes "Mohammed's Quran" as saying "I will send terror into the unbelievers' hearts, cut off their heads and even the tips of their fingers." One slide says Islam's "World View" is that there can be no peace between Islam and others "...until dar al Islam conquers and assimilates its adversary."
James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute and an Islamic scholar, says of the reference to the Prophet Mohammed as a "cult leader": "It's horrific to say that. Is Jesus a cult leader? I mean, one does not do that and be respectful to the faith of people. It certainly doesn't correspond to what the reality of Islam is."
Zogby also refutes the characterization that Mohammed ordered the assassinations of his critics. "Yes, there were people who he in fact was opposed to. And yes, there was a conflict that was going on, a war that was going on in the Arabian peninsula at the time. But to put it that way makes it sound as if he is organizing hit squads to go after the opposition. That's not what the story line was about."
The author of the training presentation writes, of some of these extreme and violent beliefs: "The strategic themes animating these Islamic values are not fringe; they are mainstream."
That drew a passionate response from Zogby. "I say this is the propaganda of the Islamophobes," Zogby said. "This is what they've been preaching. This is why they've been stopping the building of mosques. They want to paint an entire community - an entire faith community - as extremist and radical and violent and prone to violence. It's bigotry of the worst sort."
Contacted by CNN, the FBI would not comment on Zogby's remarks. FBI spokesman Christopher M. Allen said in a statement:
Allen told CNN the person who wrote the presentation is an FBI analyst, not an agent. Though the person was removed from training programs, Allen said he still works at the bureau as an analyst.
Asked by CNN whether the analyst was or will be disciplined, Allen said he could not comment on personnel matters. CNN asked to interview the analyst and that request was denied.
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the FBI has often invited Muslim leaders to speak to agents and has conducted several outreach programs with the American Muslim community.
Tom Fuentes, a former FBI Assistant Director and a CNN National Security contributor, said the FBI and other law enforcement agencies want to expose students to a wide array of ideas and beliefs during training.
Asked if he thinks FBI counterterror agents believe mainstream Muslims are that extreme, Fuentes said "No, they don't believe it. And they furthermore believe strenuously in a strong outreach program." But Fuentes said he does worry about the implications of that particular training session and the fact that it has been made public.
"It would play into anybody's hands who is trying to diminish the FBI or the U.S. government's ability to establish cooperation in Muslim communities. So by its nature, if someone in the community sees or hears something suspicious and feels that they cannot cooperate with the FBI or other agencies, they may not. And that would make it more dangerous."
But Fuentes is hopeful that the fact that the FBI acted so quickly to pull the program "may give the FBI more credibility" with Muslim leaders.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.