Washington Post: Whitewashing of CAIR Continues

Washington Post reporting continues to present the Council on American Islamic Relations to readers as a credible news source. This despite evidence provided to editors and reporters indicating CAIR is an Islamic extremist organization.

The most recent occasion for this recurring journalistic malpractice was the March 10 hearing on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response,” called by U.S. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.). Facts about CAIR indicate that it is not — contrary to much Post and other major news media coverage — an American Muslim version of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or the Anti-Defamation League.

Nevertheless, The Post’s March 11 “The Fact Checker: The Truth Behind The Rhetoric” feature continued the whitewash of CAIR. Reporter Glenn Kessler, purporting to scrutinize allegations about CAIR raised during the Homeland Security Committee’s hearing the day before, said they “lack context.” Factually, lack of context was The Post’s doing.

Kessler told readers that CAIR “is an aggressive Muslim civil liberties organization, modeled on the Anti-Defamation League ….” Aggressive, yes. Civil liberties, no.

And as superficial and misleading as Kessler’s “Fact Checker” column was, “Are we scared yet?” (March 13) by Post columnist Dana Milbank, was more so. Milbank termed Homeland Security Committee member Rep. Chip Cravaack’s (R-Minn.) questioning of Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca “the very definition of McCarthyism: false allegations of subversion.”

Cravaack had asked if Baca, who has worked with CAIR, if he was aware “that this is a Hamas and … Muslim Brotherhood entity?” Baca replied “no, I’m not aware of that.”

Milbank wrote that “Cravaack informed Baca that CAIR was founded by two people identified by the FBI as ‘Hamas members.’” Why the quotation marks around “Hamas members”? Perhaps the omniscient Milbank was not aware of the out-of-court libel settlement between CAIR and the Web site www.anti-cair-net.org that seems to confirm that description.

The evidence that CAIR is not a mainstream American Muslim civil rights group but a Hamas-leaning false-flag operation includes:

1) CAIR’s founders came from the Islamic Association for Palestine, sometimes known as the American Muslim Society. IAP has been described in court cases as a North America offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood’s credo is “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” A Brotherhood document asserts that part of its mission is to “destroy Western civilization from within.” Hamas is a Brotherhood offshoot in the Gaza Strip.

2) Unlike the NAACP, ADL or other American civil rights organizations, CAIR has seen at least five former lay leaders or senior staff arrested, convicted or deported on terrorism- or weapons-related charges. One was Ghassan Elashi, a founder of CAIR’s Texas chapter, sentenced to 65 years imprisonment in 2009 in the retrial of the federal Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. He was one of five HLF leaders convicted of convicted of funneling more than $12 million to Hamas. HLF had been America’s largest Muslim charity. Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, is designated by the United States, Israel and other countries as a terrorist organization. Elashi had been convicted in a 2004 Hamas-related case as well.

3) In 2007, CAIR issued a media guide to proper reporting on Islamic issues. Investor’s Business Daily (“Islam for Dummies,” Dec. 20, 2007) editorialized “it’s pure propaganda … designed to whitewash the radical Islamist threat …. What the media could really use is a guide to CAIR’s own questionable agenda.”

4) In 2004, CAIR sued the Web site anti-cair-net.org for libel on five general grounds. These were that the site claimed the council was a terrorist-supporting front organization, sought the overthrow of the U.S. government, was funded by Hamas supporters, was founded by Hamas members, and was founded by Islamic terrorists. A year later CAIR reduced its libel claims to two, that CAIR was a terrorist-supporting front group and that it sought to overthrow the U.S. government. In 2006, CAIR and anti-cair-net reported a confidential “mutually agreeable settlement.” The Web site’s attorney noted that CAIR’s interest in a settlement “intensified … just as a judge was considering whether the group should be forced to disclose additional details about its inner workings, including its financing and its alleged ties to Hamas and other terrorist groups.” This appeared to leave unchallenged the claims that CAIR was founded by Hamas members, founded by Islamic terrorists, and funded by Hamas supporters.

5) In 2000, Prof. Khalid Duran co-authored a book called Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews, part of an American Jewish Committee program for interreligious understanding. CAIR attacked the book even before publication and accused Duran of association with “Muslim bashers.” The Arab press picked up the story and soon a leader of Jordan’s Islamic Action Front, a Brotherhood affiliate, issued a “fatwa” (Islamic religious ruling) calling for Duran’s “blood to be shed.”

6) In 2005, CAIR published “Unequal Protection,” a report alleging “dramatic increases in reported civil rights and hate-crimes cases.” But examination of CAIR’s statistics and cases revealed no such national trend. And figures reported by the FBI for reported hate crimes in 2006 and subsequent years reflected a consistent post-Sept. 11, 2001 trend: no wave of “Islamophobic” attacks. For 2006, 2,640 hate crimes were reported against black Americans; 1,195 based on sexual orientation, 967 against Jews; 890 targeting whites, 576 against Hispanics and 156 aimed at American Muslims. Nevertheless, like the boy in the children’s tale who periodically cried “Wolf!” to inflate his own importance, CAIR chronically and falsely discerns waves of “Islamophobia” rolling across America.

7) Hyping demographic as well as hate crime statistics, CAIR has claimed to represent “7 million American Muslims.” Best estimates, including by the Pew Research Center in 2007, put the figure for American Muslims at 2.35 million. Although the council’s voice, often uncritically echoed by news media like The Washington Post, is loud, its U.S. donor list may be small. The New York Times reported (“Scrutiny Increases for a Group Advocating for Muslims in U.S.,” March 14, 2007) that “CAIR has raised suspicion by accepting large donations from individuals or foundations closely identified with Arab governments,” in particular, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

8) CAIR has distributed a 1934 version of Islamic scripture, The Meaning of the Holy Quran. The book was banned in 2002 by the Los Angeles school district because of antisemitic commentary accompanying the text.

Much of the above can be found in more detail and with other information about the council, in CAMERA’s 2009 Special Report, “The Council on American Islamic Relations: Civil Rights or Extremis m?” Copies of the Special Report were supplied to Post reporters and editors long before the paper’s coverage of the King hearings.

Kessler’sFact Checker” column noted that a U.S. District judge found (in the 2009 retrial) that “the government ‘has produced ample evidence’ to establish the associations of CAIR and other organizations with entities such as the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, the Islamic Association for Palestine and with the Hamas militant [emphasis added] group.” But the columnist minimized the finding by focusing on the legal technicality of whether CAIR’s listing as an unindicted co-conspirator should have been publicized during the case.

The Post observed that Los Angeles County Sheriff Baca “pointedly noted [that] CAIR itself has never been charged with criminal activity.” Baca seems unaware of former CAIR leaders and staffers’ numerous criminal charges and “Fact Checker” keeps Post readers that way.  
According to Kessler, “the repeated references to CAIR being an ‘unindicted co-conspirator” is one of those true facts that ultimately gives a false impression.” Never mind the ungrammatical “true facts” — facts are, by definition, true — CAIR’s label as “unindicted co-conspirator” in a terrorism-related case is a key fact. It is part of a pattern demonstrating that the council is less an American Muslim civil rights group and more a Hamas-leaning offshoot.

“Fact Checker” acknowledged that CAIR was an unindicted co-conspirator in the HLF case, but doesn’t mention the convictions or their reflection on the council. Kessler said “the FBI doesn’t call CAIR a terrorist group. Nor does it allege that CAIR was founded or financed by Hamas.” No, but the anti-cair-net settlement points in that direction.

Columnist Dana Milbank was not content with recalling the early Cold War House Un-American Activities Committee, which at times found communists where they weren’t, or with his “McCarthyite” smear. Actually, charging someone with McCarthyism while misrepresenting his argument and ignoring relevant facts itself could be consider McCarthyite.

The columnist also implied by obvious innuendo racism and religious bigotry: “… King and his white Republican colleague listened to Democrats — most of them black or Latino — speak up for another minority.” Posing as a journalistic skeptic and scold, Milbank shows no skepticism toward the generalizations some committee members offered in parallel to CAIR’s allegation that the hearing was a witch-hunt aimed at American Muslims.

Reiterating Baca’s defense of his experience with CAIR and the sheriff’s “Muslim outreach program” in southern California, Milbank concluded with “What’s this? Evidence that contradicts the committee’s accusations? How un-American!”

From such coverage and pontification, readers could not learn that CAIR’s Hamas roots run deep. In 1994, the council’s co-founder and executive director, Nihad Awad, declared himself to be a Hamas supporter at a forum at Florida’s Barry University. In 1999, at the Islamic Association for Palestine’s Chicago convention (IAP is the Hamas-related precursor of CAIR), Awad praised suicide bombers who “kill themselves for Islam.”

CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper, often quoted by Post reporters, worked for IAP before joining the council. Hooper was once quoted as saying that he “wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future” (Minneapolis Star-Tribune, April 4, 1993).

Missing from Post coverage of CAIR is its characterization as a champion of “extremists” and not representative of mainstream Muslims by Muslim Americans including the late Seifeldin Ashmawy, publisher of the Voice of Peace, and Tashbih Sayyed of the Council for Democracy and Tolerance. Sayyed has called CAIR “the most accomplished fifth column in the United States.”

In 2009, about 50 Somali Americans demonstrated outside a CAIR ice cream social in Minneapolis. They reportedly were friends and family of a local teenager believed to have been killed by Muslim terrorists in Somalia. Demonstrators charged CAIR with discouraging Minneapolis Somalis from cooperating with an FBI investigation into the radicalization of their youth, at least 20 of whom disappeared. They apparently had gone to join a Somalia terrorist group. The dead teenager’s uncle, one of King’s committee witnesses, charged intimidation by local mosque leaders when he tried to trace his nephew.

Little of this who, what, when, where, why and how regarding CAIR registers with The Post. In addition to “Fact Checker” and Milbank, two news articles, “House hearing to bring debate on Islam to the fore,” (March 10) and “Lost of drama, less substance; Hearing on radicalization of U.S. Muslims puts Congress in spotlight as much as Islam,” mentioned CAIR. The latter noted the Cravaack-Baca exchange. But neither dealt with evidence suggesting CAIR is part of the problem, not the solution.

Post Executive Editor Marcus W. Brauchli previously responded to CAMERA criticism of the newspaper’s treatment of CAIR as a credible news source by noting that the press often quotes those it does not agree with. But that, as CAMERA observed, is not the issue: The question continues to be why The Post persists in sanitizing CAIR, quoting or mentioning it with little or no context, letting readers infer that it is a civil rights group rather than a mouthpiece for extremists?

Perhaps one reason can be found in a speech by then Post Managing Editor Philip Bennett on the U.S. media’s coverage of Islam, terrorism and related news after al Qaeda’s Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Speaking at the University of California-Irvine in 2008, Bennet said one way to improve such reporting, and understanding by the public, was “for Muslims to have greater influence on the mainstream news media — and on society at large.” More of them should “come to work in newsrooms.” He added that “at The Post I want more Muslim readers, but also more Muslim journalists …. Journalism plays a role in transforming ‘others’ into us. This is not necessarily a happy story; it does not mean papering over conflicts or uncomfortable truths. It does mean crossing boundaries — sometimes on a map, sometimes in your head — to engage honestly with how we are all influencing each other’s lives.”

As CAMERA has noted (“Managing Editor ‘Wants More Muslim Readers, Journalists’,” July 24, 2008)), it is not the purpose of a major daily newspaper to seek readers and journalists from particular groups. The Post should not specifically want more Muslim readers and reporters any more than it should seek more Jewish, black or homosexual readers and reporters. That’s the role of the ethnic or specialty press, and the Washington Jewish Week, Washington Afro-American, and Washington Blade exist to serve such markets.

The job of general interest dailies like The Post is to report the news of the day regardless of its religious, ethnic, gender or other minority roots. Specifically looking for reporters and readers from or for special interests risks embedding political correctness in coverage. To report the news comprehensively, in context, for the body politic a major daily must transcend special interests. Otherwise, coverage can be parochial if not special pleading. That’s what Post coverage of CAIR has been so far: “high-mindedly” parochial and, by effect, special pleading.

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