CAMERA Op-Ed: CAIR Isn’t Credible

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is at it again. Every couple of years the organization issues a report slandering its critics as “hate groups” and “Islamophobic.” But the facts show that CAIR isn’t credible—and media outlets that uncritically repeat their claims should take note.

CAIR’s latest foray, “Hijacked by Hate,” libels the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), along with 39 different nonprofit organizations, as “Islamophobic.” Tellingly, CAIR presents no evidence to back up its claim. Indeed, none exists. But there is, however, an abundance of evidence to suggest that CAIR is not a trustworthy source.

As The Jerusalem Post has noted, CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2009 Holy Land Foundation (HLF) retrial, the largest terrorism financing case in the country’s history.

In an April 28, 2009 response to then-U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the FBI wrote:

 “CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development in United States v. Holy Land Foundation et al…. During that trial, evidence was introduced that demonstrated a relationship among CAIR, individual CAIR founders (including its current President Emeritus and Executive Director) and the Palestine Committee. Evidence was also introduced that demonstrated a relationship between the Palestine Committee and Hamas, which was designated as a terrorist organization in 1995. In light of that evidence, the FBI suspended all contacts between CAIR and the FBI.”

The FBI’s decision to suspend formal contacts was not “intended to reflect a wholesale judgment of the organization and its entire membership. Nevertheless,” the Bureau ordered that until it “can resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and Hamas, the FBI does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner.” As a result, the FBI restricted its field offices’ “non-investigative interactions with CAIR,” according to a Sept. 2013 U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General report issued under the Obama administration.

While well-meaning individuals may be active in CAIR at local or state levels, the council has also had no fewer than five former lay leaders or staffers who have been arrested, convicted and/or deported for terrorism related charges. Among them:

Ghassan Elashi, co-founder of CAIR’s Texas chapter. Elashi was one of five men sentenced to prison in the Holy Land Foundation case for raising more than $12 million for Hamas.

Randall Royer, a CAIR employee tasked with outreach and communications, who pled guilty to weapons and explosives charges in 2004. In later grand jury testimony, Royer admitted that his terror cell’s primary goal was to fight with the Taliban against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

CAIR’s former community relations director, Bassem Khafagi, who was sentenced in September 2003 in the U.S. to 10 months in prison and later deported to Egypt, after pleading guilty to two counts of bank fraud and one count of visa fraud. He had been charged with funneling money to promote terrorist activities.

Rabih Haddad, a fundraiser for CAIR’s Ann Arbor chapter, who was deported to Lebanon after an immigration judge, found that he presented “a substantial risk to the national security of the United States.” The U.S. Treasury Department said Haddad had been a member of Makhtab Al-Khidamat, the precursor organization to Al Qaeda.

In 2004, CAIR-Northern Virginia director Abdurahman Alamoudi pleaded guilty to terrorism-related financial and conspiracy charges—resulting in a 23-year federal prison sentence. Among other actions, the U.S. DOJ noted that Alamoudi had helped “in recruiting participants” for a plot to assassinate the then-Saudi Crown Prince.

In 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. ruled that CAIR should be tried for fraud. The case involves hundreds of people who had relied on CAIR for legal aid.

These charges weren’t made by CAMERA or any of the other non-profit organizations smeared by the council. Rather, they come directly from U.S. courts and American law enforcement.

Equally troubling, is CAIR’s history of hateful and antisemitic remarks.

In a March 1998 article in the Georgetown Voice, CAIR’s leader Nihad Awad trafficked in antisemitic conspiracy mongering, claiming that U.S. foreign policy was “driven in part by the Jewish origin of many Clinton administration officials.” Awad has also defended Hamas and Hezbollah—both Islamist terrorist groups that seek Israel’s destruction—as merely “resistance movements.”

The authors of CAIR’s “Hijacked by Hate” have a disturbing history themselves. As Bradley Martin of the Middle East Forum (MEF) has documented, CAIR’s research and advocacy manager, Zainab Arain, has promoted “the modern variation of the long-debunked blood libel that claims Israel kills Palestinians to steal their organs” and shared an article from “the white nationalist website Information Clearing House, which alleges Israeli control over American leaders.” Another co-author of the report, CAIR’s research and advocacy director Abbas Barzegar, has spread antisemitic conspiracy theories via Huffington Post.

MEF, like CAMERA, was one of several organizations slandered in CAIR’s report. Many seem to have one thing in common: they dared to highlight the extensive body of evidence suggesting that when it comes to hate and extremism, CAIR is not a watchdog—it’s a purveyor of these ills.

 

(Note: A slightly different version of this article appeared as an Op-Ed in The Jerusalem Post on June 3, 2019)