At the end of this month, Ryan Mauro, a “national security analyst” at the shadowy anti-Muslim group the Clarion Project, will speak at a law enforcement conference and weapons expo in Verona, New York.
Mauro is slated to be one of the keynote speakers at the New York Tactical Officers Association (NYTOA) conference, an annual expo attended by police officers from across the country. This year’s event will take place on April 26 – 28 at the Turning Stone Resort. The three-day event, which is closed to journalists and the public, will feature law enforcement training sessions in addition to the weapons expo. With Mauro on the bill, it seems a helping of anti-Muslim bias and fear mongering will also be on the agenda.
Mauro, known for spreading anti-Muslim conspiracy theories in the name of “national security,” is scheduled to give two three-hour presentations on “The Global Threat of Islamic Extremism (ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Iran)” and “The Threat of Islamic Extremism in America/New York State.”
He is known for vilifying Muslim communities across the U.S., including hamlets like Islamberg, New York, which has previously been targeted by anti-Muslim extremists. In fact, Mauro appeared on Fox News claiming he had video footage of Islamberg residents “engaging in guerrilla warfare training,” contrary to reports from local law enforcement.
NYTOA doubles down despite criticism
The New York-based anti-war group War Resisters League started a petition to cancel the conference, citing Mauro’s presence and how it pertains to greater concerns regarding anti-Muslim sentiment and policing.
Yet last week Larry Beresnoy, the executive director of NYTOA, publicly doubled down on Mauro’s appearance at the conference in an interview.
“Ryan Mauro is a national expert on terrorism and Islamic extremism,” Beresnoy told Alternet. “His entire job is researching the issue. I’ve looked at Ryan’s stuff, looked at Clarion’s stuff. I’ve seen their videos Third Jihad and Obsession. There are many experts who believe that the information is accurate. He has good information to share.”
The NYTOA website describes the organization as a “not for profit corporation.” According to Alternet, some law enforcement officials may be attending the event-and listening to Mauro-while on duty, and therefore using taxpayer funds. Beresnoy declined to provide specifics, but told Alternet there are “a number of police departments” scheduled to attend.
Mauro advances anti-Muslim falsehoods
Mauro is a go-to “expert” on terrorism within right-wing circles and conservative news outlets like Fox News. He regularly uses his platform to push falsehoods about Muslims, both home and abroad.
He has previously claimed Shariah law-enforcing “Muslim patrols” have taken root in the United States. In another interview, he claimed there is an ongoing effort by Muslims in America to “create enclaves where they can begin gradually implementing Shariah law.”
Not surprisingly, Mauro joined the hysteria following the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, claiming Muslims are beginning to establish alleged European-style Muslim-only “no-go” zones in the United States. The “no-go” zone is a myth that has been repeatedly debunked. However, it still continues to be peddled by anti-Muslim figures like Mauro.
Anti-Muslim sentiment promoted by the Clarion Project
The Clarion Project’s efforts to promote xenophobia directed at Muslims is well-documented. For instance, the films cited by Beresnoy have been widely criticized. Obsession: Radical Islam’s War on the West, the group’s 2005 film, has been called out for comparing Islam to Nazism and stirring up false fear that Muslims are gearing up for world conquest.
The group’s other film, The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision for America, released in 2008, pushes a narrative that mainstream Muslim organizations in the United States are working to subvert the government from within and replace it with a Shariah-adherent one. The film became the subject of controversy when it was used by the New York Police Department as part of a counter-terrorism training program. Officers who viewed the film referred to it as “straight propaganda” that depicted Muslims as the enemy.
Trend of Islamophobia in policing
Mauro’s scheduled appearance at the conference is part of a greater problematic trend in the U.S. involving anti-Muslim activists providing biased trainings to law enforcement. One of the most prominent figures in this field is former FBI agent John Guandolo. After resigning in disgrace from the FBI, Guandolo turned to a full-time career peddling anti-Muslim conspiracies to civilians and law enforcement alike. The Center for New Community, along with other civil rights groups, has had some success exposing law enforcement agencies that host Guandolo and pressuring them to cancel the events or withdraw their accreditation.
Despite pressure, anti-Muslim figures are sometimes still given an audience among law enforcement. Last November, Walid Shoebat, a self-described former terrorist turned anti-Muslim spokesperson, was paid thousands, likely at taxpayer expense, to deliver a “counter-terrorism” seminar to police in Ocean County, New Jersey. In August 2015, Guandolo deemed one of his unofficial trainings in Denver a “success,” despite a local detective being dispatched to identify any police officers who may have attended.
The New York Tactical Officers Association would be wise to follow the example and refuse to grant a platform to anti-Muslim extremists like Mauro.