- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas sheriff’s department has rejected a national Muslim organization’s request to cancel a two-day training program to be conducted by a former FBI agent who specializes in Muslim extremism.

John Guandolo, a former Marine who founded the organization Understanding the Threat, is scheduled to present the training sessions for law enforcement from across the state starting next Wednesday.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations on Wednesday asked the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office to cancel the program, but a sheriff’s spokesman insisted the training will go on as planned, The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/TvxnMH ) reported.

“We’re bringing him in because we think there is a need,” Lt. David Mattingly said.

The Sheriff’s Office called a news conference Wednesday evening after an Eagle story prompted a number of inquiries about the training. Mattingly cited an alleged plot to blow up an airplane at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport in December as evidence that training like that offered by Guandolo is necessary.

“This is an extreme type of event,” Mattingly said. To combat such threats, he said, “Why would we not provide training?”

Terry Loewen, a 58-year-old avionics technician, was arrested Dec. 13 after allegedly trying to bring a van filled with inert explosives onto the tarmac at the airport, where he worked. His arrest followed a months-long federal sting operation.

He has pleaded not guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to use an explosive device to damage property and attempting to give material support to al-Qaida.

“We can’t forget 9/11,” Mattingly said.

But Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Guandolo is biased against Islam and his training programs persuade law enforcement members to treat all Muslims with suspicion.

“He’s a notorious anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist, and if any law enforcement officer walks out of his training and encounters an ordinary Muslim in the course of their duty, they’re going to have a completely biased viewpoint of that person,” Hooper said.

Guandolo called the council “an entity of Hamas,” adding that Hamas has been designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization.

His law enforcement training program is not about identifying all Muslims, he said, but rather identifying threats.

“I am the only one in this country doing this program or anything close to it,” he said

Hooper said: “Any law enforcement agency that has him as a trainer should be embarrassed.”

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