John Guandolo

‘Jihadi Circuses’: The Anti-Muslim Police Training in San Angelo Was Worse Than We Thought

"Why is it OK for Muslims to torture?" John Guandolo asked nearly 30 West Texas cops during a May 4 training. “Because Muhammad did it,” they answered.


Earlier this month, Texas’ law enforcement accreditation agency rejected a police training given in San Angelo by the notorious anti-Muslim activist John Guandolo. The daylong course “paint[ed] an entire religion with an overly broad brush” and “provided no training value for law enforcement attendees,” wrote Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) Director Kim Vickers in a pair of letters announcing his decision. But the Observer obtained an audio recording of the May 4 training, and found that Guandolo’s message for police that day was a tad more extreme than Vickers’ tame language let on.

An ex-FBI agent now living near Dallas, Guandolo is the type of guy who tweets out pictures of brown-skinned TSA agents with beards, calling them “terrorists.” Yet, somehow, he’s built a cottage industry peddling law enforcement trainings around the country via a company called Understanding the Threat. (Spoiler: The threat is Muslims).

Guandolo uses the words “jihadi circus” to describe Austin, Dallas and Houston.

Twenty-seven students — mostly police officers and sheriff’s deputies — gathered for Guandolo’s course on May 4 in a San Angelo Baptist church, according to a roster obtained from TCOLE through a public information request. There, Guandolo expounded upon, among other things, how to interpret 14th-century Islamic law, identify a Jihadi job applicant and stymie the Muslim Brotherhood’s conspiracy to topple America.

Guandolo often used a question-and-answer style to elicit participation from the cops in attendance. “Why is it OK for 60-year-old Muslim men to marry 6-year-old girls?” he asked the audience, according to an audio recording made by a TCOLE employee and obtained through a public information request. “Why is it OK for Muslims to torture?” To both questions, a number of attendees replied dutifully: “Because Muhammad did it.”

Guandolo attempted to paint a picture of Islam as a unified, totalitarian system unlike other religions. “There’s nothing radical, extreme, orthodox or fundamentalist about the Islamic State,” he said, repeatedly claiming that al-Qaida and ISIS accurately represent the entire religion. Guandolo argued that many seemingly moderate Muslims will convert into militants when ordered, and that Muslim leaders regularly mislead law enforcement in order to conceal their mission of overthrowing the West.

“If your sole source for understanding Islam is an imam and you’re in law enforcement … that’s unprofessional, because his doctrine commands him to lie to you,” Guandolo said during the training. “If they’re a leader in the Islamic community, they’re commanded to lie to you.”

Guandolo often used a question-and-answer style to elicit participation from the cops in attendance.

Guandolo acknowledged that sparsely populated Tom Green County isn’t exactly a Muslim stronghold, but he insisted that Texas as a whole is a battlefield. “I know San Angelo has a little smattering of it, but you’re pretty good,” he said. “But they’re not good in Houston, they’re not good in Austin, they’re not good in Dallas — it is a jihadi circus,” he said, citing the annual Muslim Day at the Texas Capitol as evidence.

But how could officers shut that circus down? Cops, Guandolo said, need to understand the lingo (“jihad,” “Sharia,” “dawah”) and the visual cues (beards without mustaches, perhaps dyed with henna) in order to recognize the enemies in their midst. He also told attendees that “75 to 80 percent” of Islamic centers are Muslim Brotherhood fronts aimed at undermining the United States — meaning cops ought to be busting down mosque doors left and right.

“We have probable cause right now to get into, if not thousands, at least hundreds of Islamic Centers in the United States,” Guandolo said. “So the question is, why aren’t we? I would argue it’s because we don’t have the will to do it,” he said, adding that the problem lies mostly with federal officials unversed in Sharia and ignorant of the threat. (Guandolo did express respect for new national security adviser and former chair of an Islamophobic think tank John Bolton, however).

Guandolo expounded upon how to interpret 14th-century Islamic law, identify a Jihadi job applicant and stymie the Muslim Brotherhood’s conspiracy to topple America.

Guandolo also suggested he’s working with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to drum up support for an unspecified case in the Lone Star State. “What we’re doing is working in this state and a few other states with attorney generals — quietly with police chiefs and sheriffs to educate them,” he said, adding that a “director of intelligence” is building a “really cool case” somewhere in Texas. “But we’re not gonna do it until we get support from the state leadership and they say, ‘We will stand with you on the dais, during the press conference, when this thing comes down,’” he said.

In an email, Guandolo declined to provide further information about that investigation, saying it’s “ongoing,” and he did not answer further questions. A spokesperson for Paxton denied any connection to the supposed investigation, saying the attorney general’s office “has had no contact with John Guandolo or anyone associated with the organization ‘Understanding the Threat.’”

Repeatedly during the training, Guandolo plugged the longer three-day and weeklong courses his company offers. At the end, he also let attendees know he’d happily sign copies of his book over at the “product table.” But when he wasn’t coming across as a hustler, he could be downright scary. At one point, he even tried to make it easier for attendees to justify having killed a Muslim — at least in some cases.

“If you understand [Sharia], it changes the statement of facts that go into the deadly force continuum,” he said. “Because if four jihadis take over a school, they are not going to request a helicopter to Cuba; they’re gonna die in place. … These are statements of facts you can use to determine a deadly force continuum.”

Guandolo also made clear that he doesn’t oppose theocracy; he’s just against Islam. “The founders understood that our leaders should be Christians,” he said during a lengthy digression in which he also argued that there should be no separation of church and state, and that Texas and other states should consider requiring elected officials to profess Christian beliefs.

In his final cri de coeur for combating Islam, Guandolo called upon the crowd’s Lone Star pride. “This is the battle line, and if you’re too tired or exhausted or just don’t want to deal with it, that’s fine. All I’d ask is please don’t get in the way of the rest of us,” he said. “This is Texas, for God’s sake. If we can’t win here, this nation is in real trouble.”

Update: This story has been updated to include a response from the Office of the Attorney General.

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