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My Take: NYPD’s use of anti-Islam film makes us less safe
U.S. Rep Keith Ellison in a Minnesota mosque last August.
February 16th, 2012
04:20 PM ET

My Take: NYPD’s use of anti-Islam film makes us less safe

Editor's Note: Congressman Keith M. Ellison represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District and co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

By Rep. Keith M. Ellison, Special to CNN

Recent news that the New York Police Department presented the film “The Third Jihad” to nearly 1,500 officers is only the latest example of anti-Muslim training materials being used in ways that harm our national security.

The film baselessly contends that “the true agenda of much of Islam in America” is to “infiltrate and dominate America,” smearing a religion that has been part of this country since its founding. Incidents like these sound the alarm on the need for greater transparency and oversight of counterterrorism training at all levels of government.

The NYPD’s use of “The Third Jihad” is disturbing because it leaves officers with the impression that American Muslims are the enemy, not an ally against terrorism. This notion hurts the ability of law enforcement to do its job. No one knows this better than the brave officers who have stood up to such bigotry – it was NYPD officers who objected to the screening of the film, just as it was FBI agents who recently objected to using equally harmful training materials at the bureau.

“The Third Jihad” was produced by the Clarion Fund, a group that lacks national security credentials but is flush with cash. Far-right wing donors gave the Clarion Fund $18 million between 2001 and 2009 to drive their political agenda through Islamophobic films. The group mailed its last film, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” to 28 million swing state voters weeks before the 2008 election.

The who’s who of the Islamophobic fringe leads the Clarion Fund. During the 2008 presidential campaign, one Clarion advisory board member advanced the conspiracy theory that then-Senator Barack Obama was secretly a Muslim (as if it should matter).

Another Clarion board member has said that “Most mosques in the United States are actually engaged in – or at least supportive of – a totalitarian, seditious agenda they call Sharia.” Americans of all political stripes, including former Bush Administration officials, have dismissed these extreme statements

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that whoever approved the request for Commissioner Raymond Kelly to appear in the film “exercised some terrible judgment.” The mayor is right. Not since D.W. Griffiths’ racially charged “The Birth of a Nation” made in 1915 has a film sought to stoke so much fear about one group of American citizens.

Now more than ever, it is critical that law enforcement build relationships with the Muslim community to better fight against terrorism. In my hometown of Minneapolis, the relationship between law enforcement and the Muslim community is so strong that international dignitaries have visited to learn about our model. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has said he was able to solve several high-profile crimes only because Muslim community members voluntarily came forward to share information with the police.

The great majority of national security experts view American Muslims as partners – and for good reason. A study last year by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security showed that most tips regarding domestic terrorism come from the American Muslim community (the American Muslim who tipped off police about the attempted car bombing of Times Square in 2010 is one such example. The Triangle Center reported last week that terrorism by American Muslims poses a “minuscule” threat – not a single one of last year’s almost 17,000 murders was a result of Islamic extremism.

Ensuring the public trust is critical to fighting terrorism. As Attorney General Eric Holder said in 2010, “the cooperation of Muslim and Arab-American communities has been absolutely essential in identifying, and preventing, terrorist threats.” American Muslims are well positioned to identify potential terrorists, but it’s harder to win their trust when police departments partner with the CIA to conduct surveillance, train officers to view Muslims as terrorists, or spy on Muslims purely because of their religion.

Trust can be restored only if law enforcement agencies hold individuals accountable for using prejudicial materials and create new mechanisms that ensure transparency and rigorous oversight. The result will be not only a more just society, but a safer one.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rep. Keith M. Ellison.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Islam • Opinion

soundoff (399 Responses)
  1. Keith

    Anyone who thinks "Islam is the problem" is missing the boat. There is nothing more horrendous, heinous, or murderous in the Koran than there is in the Old Testament of the Bible or the Torah. The only reason there are peaceful secular people of ANY religion is because they become more secular. If Western Christians were actually "good christians", they'd be stoning people for picking up sticks on saturdays. No Abrahamic religion is more peaceful than the others; some people have just become more moderate by becoming more secularized, and hence less literal about their religion. Fundamentalism is dangerous no matter if it's jewish, christian, or muslim.

    February 17, 2012 at 12:26 am |
  2. Islam is the only True Guidance

    No human has a right to say, who is right and wrong? Only Allah will judge on the Day of Judgement between right and wrong. and He will reward and punish according to one's own deeds, which he has done in this worldly life. Before posting any ignorant comments, I recommend you all readers to, please read Holy Quran, which can be guidance for you and can make your worldly life and etrnal life peacefull and happy. Allah, The Almighty is saying in Holy Quran, 1. A.L.M.

    2. This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah.

    3. Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them;

    4. And who believe in the Revelation sent to thee, and sent before thy time, and (in their hearts) have the assurance of the Hereafter.

    5. They are on (true) guidance, from their Lord, and it is these who will prosper.
    O men! Call to mind the grace of Allah unto you! is there a creator, other than Allah, to give you sustenance from heaven or earth? There is no god but He: how then are ye deluded away from the Truth?

    4. And if they reject thee, so were apostles rejected before thee: to Allah back for decision all affairs.

    5. O men! Certainly the promise of Allah is true. Let not then this present life deceive you, nor let the Chief Deceiver deceive you about Allah.

    6. Verily Satan is an enemy to you: so treat him as an enemy. He only invites his adherents, that they may become Companions of the Blazing Fire.

    7. For those who reject Allah, is a terrible Penalty: but for those who believe and work righteous deeds, is Forgiveness, and a magnificent Reward.

    8. Is he, then, to whom the evil of his conduct is made alluring, so that he looks upon it as good, (equal to one who is rightly guided)? For Allah leaves to stray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills. So let not thy soul go out in (vainly) sighing after them: for Allah knows well all that they do!

    February 17, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • Fn0rdz

      You're not helping.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • The Phist

      Seriously, no one cares. mohummer and allah can fudge pack each other till the end of time.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:24 am |
    • nik

      Lovely. Can someone put this in tweet like format? Short n easy? Too much too nicely worded for a post in 2012!

      February 17, 2012 at 12:32 am |
  3. The Phist

    Screw islam. And all religion.

    In the butt.

    Hard.

    February 17, 2012 at 12:18 am |
  4. Shezan

    in islam jihad is done for those who is against islam and killing innocent people. so its not a bad thing for example israel is killing innocent people in palestine. muslims are not allowed to kill people who are good in isreal weather they are non muslim. so jehad is not a bad thing. same thing is done by all countries army they kill bad people. in some situation some countries army kill innocent people also that is wrong we all know that and islam dont allow to kill innocent people weather they are non muslims. islam respects all religion. islam is peace loving religion. before 9 11 islam was respected by all the religion. in islam allah (god) wants muslims to be neutral in everything weather religion, or any way of life. you will find extremism in islam even i am against those people. we should be neutral with every way of life. there are some enemies of islam and because of extremism people who are not muslims think islam is not a good religion. weather hindus, christ, jews, chinese, i respect all religion. muslims should also learn to be calm and be nice with all religion and non muslims should also start respecting islam. islam is second largest religion of the world. no one can kill or control the majority. plus muslims cant control any other religion.

    February 17, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • anon

      You don't kill people because they are "wrong". You seem to harbor an antiquated notion that there are "evil" killers and "good" killers, and that killing in the name of righteousness is "good" killing. Killing is wrong, and only in extreme cases can we forgive ourselves for killing. Your "thinking" is the primitive brainwashing which allows religious and other mass murder to proliferate throughout history. Reflect.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:42 am |
  5. ICYSILVER

    truth is truth even when it angers some. the ones in the west that are joining islam either don't do their research or they agree with their beliefs which plainly states anyone that does not believe as they do need to be murdered further more you are allowed to lie to gain ground.

    February 16, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  6. ILOVEUSA

    Who started the first world war ? Muslims ?
    Who started the second world war ? Muslims ?
    Who killed about 20 millions of Aborigines in Australia ? Muslims ??
    Who sent the nuclear bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ? Muslims ??
    Who killed more than 100 millions of Indians in North America ? Muslims ??
    Who killed more than 50 millions of Indians in south America ? Muslims ??
    Who took about 180 millions of African people as slaves and 88% of them died and was thrown in Atlantic ocean ? Muslims ??

    No , They weren't Muslims!!!

    First of all, You have to define terrorism properly...

    If a non-Muslim does something bad..it is crime.
    But if a Muslim commits same ..he is a terrorist...
    So first remove this double standard...then come to the point!!!

    February 16, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • Schusman

      Who was responsible for 9/11?
      Who has attempted many terrorist attacks, some in NYC, since 9/11?

      Sorry, but if a group of people says they want to kill me (and actually try to), I will take the threat seriously.

      February 16, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • SSampson

      Schusman – are you saying that every Muslim n the planet actually wants to kill you? – Are you saying that every Muslim – or even the majority of Muslims – wants to kill Americans... or 'Westerners' in general??

      If so – you have some serious issues – There are people in this country that think we should exterminate 'non-whites' – Does that mean that EVERY American thinks the same?

      Every group – every country – has its radical elements. They may guise themselves by using the cover of some group that they are affiliated with, but that does not mean they represent the majority or even large portion of the group they claim membership to.

      Take the time and add up who is killing the most Americans every year.... you will find out it is actually other Americans.

      Sure we need to watch out for the radicals, but it HINDERS our efforts if we group all people of a single ethnicity into a single basket as enemies....

      A good example is Iran – a represive society that speaks of its goals or terror – commits acts of terror – but is a regieme that even its people wants to eliminate. We ALWAYS think it is easy to remove ideological leaders from a society and, in fact, it is difficult.

      Extremists under the guise of Muslim ideology attacked us in NY and elsewhere – Timothy McVeigh wasn't Muslim and he did the same thing.... Shall we round up the Irish too???

      February 17, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • Shezan

      @Schusman ok i accept terrorist group of muslims. that is true. how can u confirm that country like afghanistan where people dont even know how to use cell phone knows how to fly planes. so why afghanistan was the target.? even our army also killed soo many innocent people in afghanistan, iraq many other muslim and non muslim countries. that doesnt means our whole army is terrorist. 1 people do something wrong doesnt means whole community is doing wrong. there are some bad people in every country.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • nik

      War is a war. Those millions died either for political stability or at war. What we r talking today is cowards muslims killing innocents Not involved in any war. Or agenda.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:39 am |
  7. Bruce

    "The jihadi is proud to kill in the name of God and that is exactly what God told us to do in the Koran," said Abdulmutallab, who pleaded guilty in October.

    February 16, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Vikrant1993

      As i remember the Christians were the very FIRST terrorist in this world.....I remember reading about a thing called the CRUSADES and the church sent them places and killed many people,because they did not believe in Christ.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:25 am |
  8. Naeem

    Thousands of Americans revert to Islam every single day. It is the fastest growing religion in the US. It is so refreshing to see Islam haters fuming in their own anger. It certainly does not harm Islam in the least and Islam will keep spreading because it is the primordial religion of mankind "finding peace by being humble towards God and following God's commandments".

    February 16, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • Rosstrex

      Revert means to come back to... So Muslims leave Islam and come back to it? They may do that here in the US but in Islamic States they will be killed for leaving Islam.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • FMS

      No, revert meaning you too were born a Muslim(submitter to your Creator).

      February 17, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  9. Larry David

    Opinion: Muslims wrong to fly planes into World Trade Center

    February 16, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  10. salman

    Oh come on, we shouldn't worry about these kinds of films. Just remember that there are people like me in America. I'm from a Muslim country (Pakistan), I have a US citizenship, and I sure as hell don't want to blow you up (and myself for that matter) just because you're not a Muslim.

    February 16, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Rosstrex

      I don't want you to blow anyone up ether.... I must say your post is scary. The fact that you have thought it out and decided that you do not "want" to blow someone up means that this is a posibility in Islam that Muslims must choose not to do.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:08 am |
  11. Schusman

    As sad as it may be, the Jihadist threat is real and law enforcement should be prepared to deal with it. If the price of saving lives is that some people will be offended, so be it.

    February 16, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • name

      Its funny, when CNN showed this report about this US Rep, they made a point to show that all the men and boys are all up front in the mosque praying while all the women are in the back. Not only are they shown in the back behind all the males, but it appeared that the women and girls had to be at least 5 feet behind the men. Seems like sharia law might play a part in this imo. Sure paints a bad picture right there.

      February 16, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  12. Kat

    These anti-Islam movies were produced by Israeli Zionist organizations, funded by American tax payers, to spread hateful propaganda to justify Israeli occupation of Palestine and its wars in the Middle East. Americans should wake up and see what these liars are leading them to, more wars, hate, discrimination and social bigotry. It has become politically correct to bash Muslims to win votes of increasing numbers of bigots who believe the hate propaganda.

    February 16, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • Kat's Mom

      Boy, i told you to get to bed. You have an important algebra test tomorrow. One more time kat and youre grounded!

      February 16, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Labas

      Is it also politically correct to kill christians and kill cartoonists for making fun of someone? Or is that just overlooked. Because last time I checked Islam's preaching has killed hundreds of thousands of people in this last century. There is a difference between trying to get votes and actually killing people. Did you ever think that maybe there is a reason that 99.9 percent of terror attacks are made my Muslims. When this happens, why dont the good muslims speak out. I honestly would not mind Islam but am looking at the facts in front of me.

      February 16, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • anon

      Labas, what you are seeing is the acts of the poor, the desperate, the brainwashed. A book does not cause violence; it is the few warped powerful in these societies taking advantage of the unwashed masses for their own personal benefit that has led to mass murder. It would (and does) happen regardless of the religion of the "victims".

      February 17, 2012 at 12:50 am |
  13. Kat

    It is ironic that Islamphobes say Muslims teach hate and violence while these same Islamphobes produce tons of material every year that spread lies, bigotry, Islamphobia, and advocate persecution and attacks against Muslims.

    February 16, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Schusman

      Was 9/11 a lie? I don't think so

      February 16, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • FMS

      Bush Knocked down the towers

      February 17, 2012 at 12:22 am |
  14. collins61

    Anti Islam? How about just exposing the realities of Jihad and Islam so the police have an Idea of the level of commitment some of these players have.

    February 16, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Kat

      except it exposes no realities, just the hate and bigotry of its makers.

      February 16, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • C'Mon Bro

      @kat

      Youre an idiot and blinded by your political correctness acting like that somehow makes you morally superior. The truth of the matter is that we call a spade a spade and try to eradicate the problem. Ofcourse all terrorist arent muslims, but much larger portion of them are and we should educate ourselves. Fookin clown

      February 16, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Reason

      There should be a fine line between terrorists and persons belonging to one religion or another muslim jewish whatever. Timothy Mcveigh was a "christian". The actions of one should not be associated to a large group of people. Its not about political correctness, its about logic. One should be able to practice their religion without bigotry and discrimination as long as they do not break the law or harm others. There are muslims who just want to live their lives and raise their families like everyone else. If they do break the law or attempt to harm others then each person must be dealt with individually regardless of race or religion. You cant place everyone in the same basket.

      February 16, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • JD

      sounds like you are saying the majority of muslims are terrorists because some radicals are out to cause harm.
      By that logic then most catholics are terrorists because they used to bomb abortion clinics to cause harm.
      Neither majority (muslims or catholics) are terrorists. The radical fringe of any group are the scary ones (along with the people who cannot accept the small fringe groups do not speak for the overall majority.)

      February 16, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • Michael

      Timothy Mcveigh was a "christian". No he was not.

      February 16, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  15. AmericaStand

    Why n ot? Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a known racist and angry liberal, is always spouting racist comments and heated rhetoric. Strangely enough, she gets away with it. What a surprise.

    February 16, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  16. tomg

    there was me thinking this film was, in reality, not shown to police but instead shown in a room in a building, not owned or run by the police, but where police seminars took place (not in the same room). granted the police commissioner showed poor judgement to allow himself to be interviewed (not play an active part in the production as some articles seem to imply) for the film. The film I completely agree is a frustratingly ridiculous, offensive film designed to incite a single negative view of a religion, but the focus on the police commissioner is becoming frustrating and if anything is giving the film publicity it is not worthy of.

    February 16, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  17. Touchdown

    Probably shouldn't show outlaw motorcycle films, because then the officers would think all HD motorcycle riders are outlaw motorcycle members. And no films on white supremacy groups, lest they think all white males with shaved heads are part of the group. And certainly never show that film, Serpico, because God forbid, they start thinking all their partners are on the take. Come to think of it, we better make sure the public doesn't see any of these films! And somebody educate me, because I've never heard this before, but Islam is a religion that has been part of this country since its founding?

    February 16, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • drnight

      It has. A while back a Congressman was sworn in using Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Koran.

      February 16, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
  18. 0110110

    Ugh. Im so sick and tired of hearing about religion.. especially islam and christianity.
    Religion, in general, needs to go away. Forever.

    February 16, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
  19. kenny

    Actually many african slaves that were brought here were muslim. Thats pretty much common knowledge throughout the history of slavery. Anyone can find examples of people or groups of people exploiting their religion for their own political purposes. Islam as a whole is pretty liberal with respect to acceptance of other peoples and cultures. Muslims do not want to dominate you they/we actually just want to be left alone. It's always odd to me tht people still promote islamaphobia and hatred of muslims...but then again I can't be too surprised blacks are still being lynched for being black...gays are being victimized... women still don't make what their male counterparts make in salary. I am not surprised at all. We frown on the liberalism of European culture but they abolished slavery over 100 years before we decided to end ours.

    February 16, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • Touchdown

      Your source, please, on "many african slaves that were brought here were muslim." I would be most interested in educating myself. I wasn't aware of this and would like to read about it.

      February 16, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  20. CRC

    To say that that the Muslim religion has been a part of the US since it's founding is very deceitful. If that were true they would have been prominent in the US long before now. Also the Muslim religion is a bloody religion by definition and is bent on killing non-believers with the exception that the liberal minded Muslims do not usually follow this murderous line of thinking. There are liberals in every religion just like there are radicals in every religion.

    February 16, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Kat

      haha, what is in the definition of Islam is bent in killing non-believers? The word "sword" or "weapon" are not mentioned even once in the Koran. To the contrary, Koran says "Let there be no compulsion in religion"

      February 16, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • vmprophet

      How about actually reading and having knowledge about the subject before commenting. as Kenny above noted, Many African slaves that were brought to the US were muslims, and the reason they were not prominent, IF YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT SLAVERY, is because they were forced to accept Christianity, they were Christinized, if thats a word.

      And its pretty stupid to say the Islamic religion is bent on killing non-believers, because it makes no sense. How is it that with 5-6 million muslims living in this country, that they didnt go on a murder spree? And your excuse is because they are liberal??? Try reading a book, and stop spewing garbage you hear from talk radio and think for your self. Its not that hard to read, they make books on tape if you dont want to read.

      February 16, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • BG

      " How is it that with 5-6 million muslims living in this country, that they didnt go on a murder spree?"

      They periodically try, but we're too successful at playing 'whack-a-mole' to let them succeed.

      February 16, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • BG

      " And its pretty stupid to say the Islamic religion is bent on killing non-believers, because it makes no sense. "

      Only in the Koran. Advocated by Imams. As serted by political demagogues. But you're right. None make any sense.

      February 16, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • vmprophet

      @BG if you can show me a Quranic verse that advocates killing Non-believers for noooo reason at all, I promise you I will become Christian, Jewish or whatever tonight. Its not even an original argument, You can pick any verse you want and I can Guarantee it will come out of Chapters 2, 5, 8, 9 about 99% of the time, and I can Guarantee that you will only post the verses you want to prove a point, but will ignore the verses that come before or after those particular verses. I will give you a lifetime to find a verse that tells Muslims to kill non-believers for no reason, just one

      February 16, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • name

      um vmprophet wouldnt the reason be because they will not convert therefor they are killed?

      February 17, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • BG

      Oh, now it's "for no reason." As if the legitimacy for killing non-believers is contingent upon the definition of a good "reason."

      Now we have to dissect the qualification of a "good reason." Talk about an unoriginal argument. And we both know the the Koran is the hallmark of abstruse, opportunist interpretation. Exactly which translation is the acceptable one?

      @name is correct. Convert, pay the tax, or die.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • FMS

      Your statues in capitol hill have arabic books in their hands. Three ships that were part of Colombus fleet were headed by Spanish Muslim Captains. Put 50c and try again. Truth is Truth.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • vmprophet

      @BG of course you have to have a reason to kill someone, believer or non-believer. Someone attacks you, you can kill them to defend your self, why is that not a good reason? There is no dissection needed and for your uninformed self, this isnt the bible where you need a translation to be accepted, all you have to do is read the arabic that still exists. Like I said, show me a verse that says you can kill a non-believer, or anyone for that matter, without good reason. Its not an absurd argument at all.

      What would be absurd is to say you cant kill anyone for any reason whatsoever, that would be absurd. Its the reason why we have laws in this country that says if you kill someone in self defense then it is justifiable, so is that an absurd reason? its that ignorance that makes me feel sorry for people.

      @name, show me a verse that says you can kill someone for not wanting to convert. You guys can talk and spew all the garbage you hear, its all opinion based on ignorance. Where does it say that you have to convert, pay the tax, or die? please show me that verse. Like I said before show me those verses and I will convert, ill give you a lifetime, its only a 700 page book or so, cant be that hard can it?

      February 17, 2012 at 3:05 am |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.