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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

May 28, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Police-training criticism

Chief went back on his word

I am writing in regard to the May 25 article “Muslims criticize producers of Seattle police training program” [NW Monday].

First of all, the headline is misleading; it is not just Muslims who are critical of the Seattle Police Department using this program. About 70 concerned citizens, including Christians, Jews and Muslims, attended a meeting with the SPD on May 7. Most of us, including several members of Jewish Voice for Peace, objected to the use of a program created by a center that promotes hatred and fear of Muslims.

At this meeting, Chief John Diaz informed us that SPD would only use this training if the Simon Wiesenthal Center agreed to have its name taken off all the materials. When questioned, he reiterated several times that if the SWC refused to have its name taken off the training, the SPD would not use this training.

Diaz went back on his word when he decided to use the training with the SWC name on it. The SPD did not get “caught in the middle” of a dispute. Even after hearing community concerns, they chose to use a program created by a group that endorses hatred of a minority religious group.

As a Jewish resident of Seattle, I object to the department’s implicit support of a group that advocates bigotry.

— Wendy Elisheva Somerson, Jewish Voice for Peace, Seattle Chapter

When minority group is target, all should care

Although I may not be happy about the Seattle Police Department’s decision to use a training developed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center despite the opposition of NAACP-Seattle and numerous church groups, it certainly has the right to do so. However, to dismiss this communitywide concern stemming from the center’s active promotion of hate as “someone else’s feud” is indefensible.

When a minority group is targeted by a powerful interest group, we should all be concerned. When an organization produces rhetoric questioning a minority group’s allegiance to the land it inhabits and promotes conspiracy theories of secret plans to subversively take over that land, it should be strongly condemned.

All of that was done by the Nazis to Jews, and ironically is now being done by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to Muslims through the films “Ever Again” and “The Third Jihad.”

Because of its activities, the center loses all credibility to teach tolerance.

There is a line between educating the public about an issue of importance and spreading hate. Where is the center’s hatred of gang violence, which takes some 15,000 American lives annually? Where is its condemnation of hate speech by a controversial Dutch politician in U.S. synagogues? Where is its criticism of the Tamil Tigers, which according to research by Dr. Robert Pape, have committed by far the largest number of suicide attacks from 1980-2003?

The facts show that the center unfairly targets Muslims and for it to teach tolerance to our police forces is wrong.

— Muhammad Ayub, Olympia

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