Criticism of the Council on American-Islamic Relations

Criticism of the Council on American-Islamic Relations

Though the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has received public recognition and endorsement by prominent public figures, including President George W. Bush and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, high-ranking members of CAIR have taken stances that many critics say goes against its self-portrayal as a moderate organization dedicated to civil rights for Muslims. CAIR responded to many of the charges against it in a January 19, 2007 open letter called [ "Urban Legends."]

Immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks, President Bush included CAIR, which had endorsed his 2000 campaign, [cite web
title=American Muslim PAC Endorses George W. Bush for President |archiveurl= |archivedate=2001-05-05
] in several public functions. In 2005, Florida Governor Jeb Bush sent a letter of commendation to CAIR, praising it for its "protection of civil rights and freedom of religion" on the occasion of its national banquet. []

Critics, however, point to several public comments, including those made by co-founder Omar Ahmad, who reportedly told a crowd of Californian Muslims in July 1998: "Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran ... should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth." [] CAIR claims that Ahmad was misquoted by a local newspaper and has requested a retraction which the paper has refused to do.

Critics have also taken aim at CAIR's fundraising and sources of funds. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, CAIR's website solicited donations for what it called the "NY/DC Emergency Relief Fund." However, clicking on the donation link led to a website for donations to the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), a charity whose assets were later frozen and confiscated by the United States Department of the Treasury because, according to United States Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, HLF "masquerade [d] as a charity, while its primary purpose [was] to fund Hamas." The HLF also had funded the creation of CAIR. []

CAIR also attracted criticism when, according to news reports, co-founder Nihad Awad wrote in the "Muslim World Monitor" that the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial was "a travesty of justice", and suggested that "there is ample evidence indicating that both the Mossad and the Egyptian Intelligence played a role in the explosion.'" [] However, during a 2002 interview with an Australian news radio reporter, Awad denied those reports, calling them a "total fabrication" and saying he had been misquoted. []

Alleged support of terrorist organizations

On December 29, 2006, Newsweek reported the following: "CAIR Executive Director Awad refuses to say whether he would also condemn Hamas [in addition to a terrorist attack perpetrated by Islamic Jihad] —which has taken credit for similar attacks in Israel—as a group or even whether he considers it a terrorist organization like the U.S. State Department does. "We condemn these groups when they committed acts of terrorism," he says. "But I’m not going to play the game of the pro-Israel lobby just so they can put words in our mouth. Our position is very clear." The subject of the column was Senator Barbara Boxer withdrawing a "certificate of accomplishment" to Basim Elkarra after learning that he serves as a CAIR official. "After directing her staff to look into CAIR, Boxer expressed concern about some past statements and actions by the group, as well as assertions by some law enforcement officials that it 'gives aid to international terrorist groups'". [cite news
author=Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball
title =CAIR Play?
work =Newsweek
date =2006-12-29
url =
accessdate =2006-12-30

CAIR members facing charges

A number of other CAIR officials have been charged with, and some convicted of, offenses related to the support of Islamic terrorism.

* In December, 2001, Rabih Haddad, a CAIR fundraiser [] , was charged and deported from the United States because he was the executive director and co-founder of Global Relief Foundation, a terrorist front organization for financing Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. [] CAIR argues that Haddad's only association with CAIR was the fact that he spoke once at a chapter dinner, and denounce the claim that he was a "CAIR fundraiser". [] . They argue that he was deported because he overstayed his visa and was never charged with any other crime.
* On December 18, 2002, Ghassan Elashi, a founding board member of CAIR-Texas and a co-founder of the Holy Land Foundation, was arrested by the FBI on charges of having ties with front groups that fund Islamic terrorism. In 2005, Elashi and two of his brothers were convicted on 21 counts of federal terrorism charges related to funding Hamas and the illegal export of electronics equipment to U.S. State Department-designated state sponsors of terrorism. Elashi was sentenced on Oct 13 2006 to 7 years in prison for doing business with a terrorist,( funnelling money to Hamas throughout the past 10 years.) []

*According to the Washington Times, In January 2003, CAIR's director of community relations and founder of the Islamic Assembly of North America, Bassem Khafagi, was arrested by the FBI on charges of having ties to front groups that fund Islamist terrorism. Khafagi pleaded guilty to charges of visa and bank fraud, and agreed to be deported to Egypt. [] The Washington Times however went on to point out that CAIR could not be categorically held responsible for the independent actions of one of its members, and commended it for its condemnation of extremism and terrorism, while at the same time suggesting that "unsettling connections between certain CAIR officials and extremist groups" continued to exist and that CAIR's defense of high-ranking members convicted of terrorism amounted to a "dishonest campaign to create the sense of a widespread inquisition against Muslims and Arabs in America that simply doesn't exist."

* In August 2003, CAIR's former civil-rights coordinator, Randall "Ismail" Royer [] , along with ten other men known as the "Virginia jihad group" were indicted on 41 counts, including training and participating in jihad activities overseas. [] The group had connections with Lashkar-e-Taiba and five of them possessed AK-47-style rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Four of the men plead guilty while the other seven were charged with 32 new counts, including conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda and to the Taliban. [,3566,98361,00.html] Royer pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years. As of 2007, he is in the Communications Management Unit (CMU) in Terre Haute, Indiana.Fact|date=February 2007
**Ismail Royer relayed his side of the story in this lengthy letter to the presiding Judge []
**CAIR argues that "whatever Ismail Royer did or did not do has no bearing on his previous work for CAIR" [] . The group also notes that Royer was not employed by CAIR at the time, and that Royer only pleaded guilty to weapons charges, not terrorism charges.
**Ismail Royer was identified as CAIR's civil rights advisor on September 6, 2001. [cite web
title =FBI Agents Raid Muslim-Owned Internet Company
publisher =Islam Online
date =2001-09-06
url =
accessdate =2007-10-04
] Royer acknowledged that he committed his offenses to help other jihadists gain entry to the Lashkar-e-Taiba training camp following a meeting on September 16, 2001. [cite press release
publisher = Department of Justice
date = 2004-04-09
url =
accessdate = 2007-10-04
quote = Royer acknowledged that he committed his offenses to help other jihadists gain entry to the Lashkar-e-Taiba training camp following a meeting on September 16, 2001, at which an unindicted conspirator said that the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, would be used as an excuse to trigger a global war against Islam, and that the time had come for them to go abroad and, if possible, join the mujahideen. Three other individuals attending that meeting, Yong Kwon, Muhammed Aatique, and Khwaja Hasan - all of whom pled guilty - stated that they went to the Lashkar-e-Taiba camp to obtain combat training for the purpose engaging in violent jihad in Afghanistan against the American troops that they expected would soon invade that country.

*In 2008, former head of the Michigan branch of the CAIR, Muthanna Al-Hanooti, has been charged with working as a spy for the Saddam Hussein government. [cite web
title = Former worker for Muslim charity in Southfield accused of being Hussein spy
publisher = Detroit Free Press
date = 2008-03-26
url =
accessdate = 2008-03-26

CAIR named as defendant in 9/11 terror lawsuit

In December 2004, CAIR was named as a defendant in a class-action lawsuit relating to the 9/11 terror attacks. [] In the complaint, the plaintiff has alleged that CAIR is a "front organization for Hamas that engages in propaganda for Islamic militants", and "manipulate [s] the legal systems of the United States and Canada in a manner that allows them to silence critics, analysts, commentators, media organizations, and government officials by leveling false charges of discrimination, libel, slander and defamation." The complaint also accused CAIR of fundraising under the guise of operating as a humanitarian organization, but in reality using those funds to promote terrorism and terrorist groups. []

CAIR's disputes with critics

Investigative journalist Steven Emerson and conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, among others, have criticized CAIR for attacking public speakers and celebrities who have criticized Islam. [cite web
title=CAIR's war on conservative radio
] [cite web
title=The American connections to Islamic Terror

Notably, in 2004, CAIR initiated a lawsuit against Andrew Whitehead, a prominent critic of CAIR and the editor of the Anti-CAIR website. [] CAIR is suing Whitehead for libel and asking for $1.35 million in damages. [cite web
title=Beach man sued over claims on Web about Muslim group
] Whitehead counter-sued. [] . In April 2006, CAIR's lawsuit was dismissed by the courts. []

Other notable disputes CAIR has had include ones with Steven Emerson [cite web
] , Daniel Pipes [] , Khalid Duran [] , Don Imus [] , Paul Harvey [cite web
title=A Bloody Mess
] , Laura SchlessingerFact|date=October 2007, the National ReviewFact|date=October 2007 [] , Michael Graham [] [cite news
last =Mowbray
first =Joel
title =CAIR and Michael Graham
work =The Washington Times
date =2005-08-18
url =
accessdate =2006-12-17
] , Geoff Metcalf [] , Bill Handel, [cite news
title =California Radio Station, Host Apologize to Muslims; Bill Handel Reprimanded for 'Insensitive Remarks' About Hajj Deaths
work =U.S. Newswire
date =2006-02-08
url =
accessdate =2006-12-17
] Brigitte Gabriel, and Nonie Darwish [] .

As an example, Michael Graham of WMAL in Washington D.C. was fired by his station in August, 2005 after CAIR led a campaign against him for saying that Islam is a "terrorist organization" [] , including the following:

"Because of the mix of Islamic theology that, rightly or wrongly, is interpreted to promote violence, added to an organizational structure that allows violent radicals to operate openly in Islam's name with impunity, Islam has, sadly, become a terrorist organization. It pains me to say it. But the good news is it doesn't have to stay this way, if the vast majority of Muslims who don't support terror will step forward and re-claim their religion."

While CAIR has been active in condemning instances of speech that it claims are unjustly critical of Islam, it has received criticism for being unwilling to condemn terrorist organizations. In regard to its refusal to condemn Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper has said that "it's not our job to go around denouncing" and "we're not in the business of condemning" [cite web
title=Preaching violence
] .

Daniel Pipes has written that Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, a moderate Muslim, has received death threats after denouncing CAIR. [ [ Reply to CAIR's Attack on Daniel Pipes ] ] Also, CAIR's criticism of a book written by Khalid Duran led to the announcement of a death edict against him by a high-ranking Jordanian cleric. His car was also vandalized; CAIR denounced this as a "cheap publicity stunt to boost book sales." [ [ [Khalid Durán An American Rushdie? - article by Daniel Pipes ] ]

CAIR is currently involved in litigation with talk radio personality Michael Savage. Clips from Savage's radio talk show were posted on CAIR's website on a page that criticized the content of Savage's program. [cite news | url= | author=CAIR | title=National Radio Host Goes on Anti-Muslim Tirade |date=2007-11-01] Legal observers have expressed skepticism about Savage's suit, one calling it a "breathtaking misunderstanding of copyright law." [cite news | url=
author=Sam Bayard | title=Savage v. Council on American-Islamic Relations: A Breathtaking Misunderstanding of Copyright Law |date=2007-12-05

Muslim population statistics

The American Jewish Committee as well as several demographers have questioned CAIR about its estimate that there are seven million Muslims in America. Other estimates of the Muslim population have ranged from 1.5 to 3.4 million.

In a November 24, 2001 article in the Washington Post, CAIR's methodology was described thus:

:"Researchers called the nation's 1,209 known mosques and interviewed leaders at 416 of them. Respondents were asked to estimate the number of people involved in their mosque in any way. The average response was 1,625 participants. Multiplying that figure by the 1,209 mosques, lead researcher Ihsan Bagby determined there were two million 'mosqued Muslims' in the United States.

:"Bagby, a professor of international relations at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., multiplied that number by three to account for people who identify themselves as Muslims but might not participate in mosque activities. He calls this multiplier an educated guess based on years of observation of the Islamic community.

:"CAIR's Awad, asked why his group settled on an estimate of seven million in its press statements rather than Bagby's range of six million to seven million, said the organization had used six million for six years. "If we still used the number six", he said, "people would say, 'Haven't we grown?' " []

Other studies include a 2002 study by researcher Tom Smith at the University of Chicago, incorporating prior national surveys, that estimated America's Muslim population in 2000 at 1.89 million ("Public Opinion Quarterly", 66, 404-417, 2002 [] ); that study explicitly criticized a number of previous studies, including CAIR's, for poor and irregular survey methodology. Another survey of 50,000 people done by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2001 concluded that the Muslim population in the United States was about 1.1 million. []

Photo doctoring in a press release

A photo of a CAIR press conference released on its webpage was digitally modified by the organization so that all women, Muslim and non-Muslim, on stage and in the crowd, who were not wearing the hijab had a digital hijab super-imposed over their bodies [] .

Removal of Israeli flag

The city of Gahanna, Ohio, (a suburb of Columbus) flew the Israeli flag from the city flagpole as part of the "Days of Remembrance", a national commemoration of the mass killing of Jews in Europe during World War II. CAIR, along with four other Muslim groups, reportedly convinced the mayor to remove the flag because they see it as "a symbol of the ongoing oppression suffered by Palestinian Christians and Muslims". [] [] The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance consider the act as an example of religious intolerance. []

Library project

Critics have said that the books donated to libraries in CAIR's "library project" do not present a balanced image of Islam, and that one contains positive statements about Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi. Al-Amoudi, who pled guilty to violating sanctions on trade with Libya, naturalization fraud,and corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the IRS, is claimed by critics to be a supporter of terrorist groups. [cite news | publisher=News World Communications, Inc. | work=The Washington Times | title=Libraries revisit Islam | author=Julia Duin |date=2003-10-20]


External links

* [ CAIR's Pro-Hamas Origins]
* [ CAIR funding ties to terrorist groups]
* [ The Suspect Ties of CAIR Officials, Fundraisers, and Trainers]

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