Politics & Policy

Singing CAIR’s Tune, On Your Dime

As the Bush administration squanders a trust, Democrats prepare a new "Sister Souljah Moment."

On a weekend when the Bush administration achieved a new CAIR-friendly low, a prominent Democrat, following the lead of other prominent Democrats, distanced herself very publicly from the unsavory Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The Transportation Security Administration is the executive agency created after 9/11 to protect American travelers. Yet, Americans viewing its website this weekend could not have felt very protected. Aghast, instead, would have been the proper response to this posting. As if snuggling up to CAIR, coercing our law-enforcement and intelligence professionals to endure CAIR’s Islamic “sensitivity training,” and inviting CAIR to weigh in on our nation’s foreign policy were not enough, we now have a Bush-administration agency publishing an unedited CAIR press release on publicly subsidized, official government Internet space.

In this instance, right under TSA’s emblem and a memorial banner depicting the late President Gerald R. Ford, Americans were treated to a news announcement beneath the big blue headline, “CAIR Welcomes TSA Hajj Sensitivity Training.” If you have the stomach for it, compare this TSA posting to the official CAIR press release from which it cribbed. They are identical.


This is naked proselytism on behalf of an Islamic interest group. Americans will no doubt be thrilled to learn, through TSA’s good offices, about CAIR’s delight that our travel-safety agency “has provided special training about Islamic traditions related to the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, to some 45,000 airport security officers[,]” and that this “cultural sensitivity training includes details about the timing of Hajj travel, about items pilgrims may be carrying and about Islamic prayers that may be observed by security personnel.”

And that’s just the warm-up. TSA also wants you to know that CAIR, or rather, we, as CAIR is apparently now referred to,

“welcome the fact that airport security officers nationwide will now be better informed about Islamic traditions relating to Hajj,” said CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. “This proactive effort on the part of the Transportation Security Administration demonstrates that there is no contradiction between the need to maintain airline safety and security and the duty to protect the religious and civil rights of airline passengers.” [Oh, really?]

Hooper said representatives of CAIR chapters nationwide have met with TSA, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials on issues related to cultural sensitivity and national security.

Outstanding! Don’t you feel safer now? And how’s this for the final paragraph of an official United States government public statement:

CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 32 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Evangelism aside, this is a shockingly incomplete and misleading version of what CAIR is and what it does. It is, in fact, the lobbyists’ own propaganda version.


Nowhere, for example, does the TSA, a key component of the Bush Homeland Security Cabinet Department, mention a word about CAIR’s embryonic ties to Hamas — a designated foreign terrorist organization under U.S. law since 1995. CAIR, you see, was birthed by a Hamas creation: the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP). Several of CAIR’s top officials, including its founders, Omar Ahmed and Nihad Awad, were high-ranking IAP officers (respectively, its president and public-relations director). Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s communications director, and now TSA’s go-to guy, is a former IAP employee — and, though you would never know it from the TSA, Hooper makes no secret that he would like to see the United States become an Islamic country under sharia law. As it happens, the IAP was started in 1981 by high-ranking Hamas operative Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook. Long a specially designated global terrorist under U.S. law, Marzook is also currently wanted on a U.S. terrorism indictment in Chicago, and named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a second U.S. terrorism indictment (which explains that he helps run Hamas’s “Political Bureau,” the branch responsible for “directing and coordinating terrorist attacks”). But he’s believed to be in Syria with other Hamas heavyweights, so maybe, using the Iraq Study Group strategy, we should just negotiate with him. In any event, so incestuous is the Hamas/IAP tie that, in 2004, a federal judge found the IAP liable for Hamas’s terrorist murder of an American citizen in Israel.

Nowhere does the TSA explain that when CAIR was founded in 1994, part of the seed money came from the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLFRD). The assets of HLFRD were frozen in 2001 based on the U.S. Treasury Department’s conclusion that it provided “millions of dollars annually that is used by HAMAS.” Prior to HLFRD’s being shut down, CAIR also helped it raise money, according to Senate testimony by terrorism experts Steven Emerson and Matthew Epstein. Awad, CAIR’s executive director, indignantly denied Emerson’s claim of a CAIR/HLFRD connection, calling the seed-money claim an “outright lie” in Senate testimony on September 10, 2003, and insisting, “Our organization did not receive any seed money from HLFRD. CAIR raises its own funds and we challenge Mr. Emerson to provide even a shred of evidence to support his ridiculous claim.” Emerson then came up with some pretty good shreds — like the documentation showing a $5,000 wire transfer from HLFRD to CAIR (see Emerson July 13, 2005, testimony, p. 9 & n.53), and the IRS Form 1023 on which HLFRD disclosed the contribution (see Epstein Sept. 10, 2003, testimony, p. 11 & n.20). Thus shredded, Awad was forced to concede, in later Senate testimony, that “the amount in question was a donation like any other.” Right.

Nowhere does the TSA say a thing about the several persons connected to CAIR who have been convicted of federal felonies, including terrorism offenses. Ghassan Elashi, for example, is a founder of both CAIR’s Texas chapter and … HLFRD, the aforementioned Hamas piggy-bank. Elashi has already been convicted of terrorism related charges twice — once in 2006 for funneling money to Marzook and Hamas, and once in 2005 for illegal transactions with Libya and Syria. He is currently awaiting trial on yet another terrorism indictment — this one for using HLFRD to funnel millions more to Hamas. Then there is Randall Royer, a CAIR communications specialist and civil-rights coordinator who is now serving a 20-year prison sentence after his conviction on explosives and firearms charges in the “Virginia Jihad” case. (At his guilty plea, Royer admitted to recruiting would-be jihadists for terrorist training in Pakistan.) Bassem Khafagi, CAIR’s community-affairs director, also makes this dishonor roll: deported to Egypt after convictions for visa and bank fraud. (He’s also a founder of the Islamic Assembly of North America, which reportedly is under federal investigation.) And let’s not forget Rabih Haddad, a fundraiser for CAIR’s Ann Arbor chapter who was deported to Lebanon after a “charity” he founded, the Global Relief Foundation, was designated as a terrorist facilitator by the Treasury Department for providing support to al Qaeda. (Like CAIR, Global Relief also got money from HLFRD.)

Nowhere does the TSA mention that CAIR vigorously opposed the Patriot Act, just like it agitates against all sensible national-security measures. Nor are we told that CAIR is suing the National Security Agency over the administration’s own terrorist-surveillance program to monitor al Qaeda communications into and out of the United States. So don’t hold your breath waiting for the ACLU, CAIR’s co-plaintiff in the NSA case, to rouse itself over the First Amendment implications of the TSA’s website. After all, what’s the big deal about government-sponsored indoctrination of a blatant Islamic agenda — in the midst of a war in which Islamic terrorists threaten all our civil liberties — when there surely must be a crèche in some remote middle-American town that needs bulldozing?

And nowhere does the TSA tell Americans about CAIR’s transparent efforts to thwart the FBI’s routine investigative and intelligence-gathering activities. On this last point, Americans may be surprised to learn, as Daniel Pipes relates, that “on the eve of the U.S. war with Iraq[,] … CAIR distributed a ‘Muslim community safety kit’ that advised Muslims to ‘Know your rights if contacted by the FBI.’ It tells them specifically, ‘You have no obligation to talk to the FBI, even if you are not a citizen. … You do not have to permit them to enter your home. … ALWAYS have an attorney present when answering questions.’”) (Emphasis in original.)

But not to worry: CAIR is just a civil-rights organization that “enhance[s] the understanding of Islam” while “promot[ing] justice and mutual understanding.” Why shouldn’t your government spend your tax dollars to reproduce its press releases? Why shouldn’t it spend your tax dollars to school agents on what “pilgrims” may be toting along for Hajj travel at a time when you’re forbidden from carrying a four-ounce bottle of shampoo through airport security?


While the Bush administration continues to enrage its supporters by romancing this besotted organization, top Democrats — having just run rings around GOP strategists in the midterm elections — are mobilizing in a different direction with the 2008 campaign already in swing.

Newsweek reports that, in California, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer has just rescinded the “certificate of accomplishment” her office awarded (she says, without her knowledge) to Basim Elkarra. Why? Because of Elkarra’s close association with CAIR, for whose Sacramento office he is executive director. According to Newsweek, Boxer’s press spokeswoman said the senator “‘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[.]’”

Boxer indicated that she had been “influenced by previous critical statements about CAIR made by her Democratic colleagues Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Charles Schumer of New York.” She’s right. As Pipes notes, “Senator Charles Schumer … describes [CAIR] as an organization ‘which we know has ties to terrorism.’… Senator Dick Durbin … observes that CAIR is ‘unusual in its extreme rhetoric and its associations with groups that are suspect.’”

The more the American people learn about CAIR, the more odious they are going to find it, and the more outraged they are going to be that the Bush administration — which for now embodies the Republican party in the public mind — has cozied up to it. Along those lines, the Newsweek article features a picture of President Bush with CAIR executive director Awad right after 9/11 — notwithstanding Awad’s by then solid record of statements supporting Hamas and its atrocities. (On PowerLine Saturday, Scott Johnson provided several of Awad’s more notable public comments, including his assertion, “I’m in support of Hamas movement more than the PLO[,]” and his explanation that the “military undertakings” (which is to say, the suicide bombings) of Hamas were legitimate because “[t]he United Nations Charter grants people who are under occupation [the right] to defend themselves against illegal occupation.”)

The Newsweek article, further, is perhaps the millionth exemplar of the CAIR playbook’s page-one response to all criticism, to wit: How can anyone possibly criticize us for terrorism support when executive-branch agencies like the FBI and DHS openly attend our fundraisers, seek our help for community outreach, and compel their agents to attend our cultural-awareness instruction (also known as, “sensitivity training”)?

This highly effective rhetorical defense is one CAIR is able to make precisely because of the administration’s recklessness. To be sure, the Bush administration is not the first to go this route. The Clinton administration was just as deeply in CAIR’s tank. Awad was appointed to a “Civil Rights Advisory Panel to the White House on Aviation Safety and Security” (yes, aviation safety and security) in 1997; and now-Senator Hillary Clinton hosted CAIR at the White House while First Lady, even as Awad, Emerson recalls, was waxing Ahmadinjad-like: “[The Jews] have been saying, ‘next year to Jerusalem’; we say ‘next year to all of Palestine!’” But President Bush has made vigilance against terrorists and their abettors his signature issue, and that has made his executive branch’s CAIR kowtowing especially unseemly.

It is worth remembering: The prestige the current Justice Department, the FBI, the new DHS, and this administration enjoy as guardians of our nation’s security against Islamic terror is not just of their own making. It is a trust painstakingly built on years of the blood, sweat, and tears of predecessors who dedicated themselves to fighting this evil — who said, “you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists,” and actually meant it. Rest assured, they did not do it so the resulting cachet could be thoughtlessly squandered on the likes of CAIR.

The next presidential election, like the last, is principally going to be about American national security against a profound threat, an existential threat, to our way of life — what Frank Gaffney aptly calls the “War for the Free World,” and Norman Podhoretz “World War IV.” It is going to be won by the candidate who convinces us that he — or she — is serious about what we’re up against.

Look at CAIR, see the Bush administration’s solicitude, and watch Senator Boxer’s deft maneuver. You can just feel a “Sister Souljah Moment” coming on for some smart Democrat who wants to be president — a Democrat who can credibly say, “In my administration, we’ll be focused on CAIR’s disturbing connections, not attending its fundraisers and lectures.” It doesn’t even have to be authentic. It only has to be convincing theater … given impact by a sympathetic media and the opposition’s folly.

Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies .


The Latest