At this point, the question about CAIR should be: Why does anyone care? Care about anything CAIR officials say, that is.
The notorious Council on American-Islamic Relations is back up to its old tricks. CAIR officials figure our ten-minute attention span has lapsed, and that we’ve probably forgotten by now that, in the 2007–08 prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) — a case in which several Islamists were convicted in a scheme that poured millions of dollars into the coffers of the terrorist organization Hamas — CAIR was named as, and shown to be, an unindicted co-conspirator. CAIR reckons that the heat is off, so it’s back on the “Islamophobia” soapbox, demanding an apology from FBI director Robert Mueller.
An apology for what? The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces had the temerity to invite Robert Spencer — one of the nation’s leading experts on Islamist ideology — to lecture federal agents on Islamist ideology.
Spencer’s lecture departed from the government’s “religion of peace” dogma, which holds that there is no Islamist aggression, that there is no civilizational jihad to destroy the West from within (never mind that CAIR’s progenitor, the Muslim Brotherhood, has bragged about its “sabotage” campaign), and that terrorism is not merely unconnected to Islam but, in fact, is anti-Islamic. According to this thinking, Islamist groups like CAIR have a monopoly on what Americans — including American law-enforcement and intelligence agents — are permitted to hear about Islam from academic, media, and government sources. No dissenting views are permitted, no matter how steeped the dissenters may be in Islamic doctrine and no matter how much these dissents accord with what your lyin’ eyes are seeing.
“When I speak with the American,” said Nihad Awad, “I speak with someone who doesn’t know anything.” Awad is now CAIR’s executive director. He made this statement at a Marriott Hotel in Philadelphia on Oct. 27, 1993, when he was the public-relations director for the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP). He and about two dozen other Islamist activists were meeting to brainstorm about how they might be able to continue supporting Hamas and to derail the Oslo Accords — the Clinton administration’s effort to bring a peaceful, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For Hamas supporters, there can be no peaceful two-state solution, because they deny Israel’s right to exist. That is why, to this day, the charter of Hamas (which was established at the start of the intifada in the late Eighties) calls for the elimination of Israel by violent jihad. But in 1993, the United States was cracking down on Hamas. It would soon be designated a terrorist organization, and providing material support to it would be made a crime.
The Philadelphia conferees realized they were “marked” men, as one of them put it. Omar Ahmad, then the IAP president and Nihad Awad’s boss, openly worried about U.S. government surveillance, counseling his confederates to use the inversion “Samah” in their conversations to avoid uttering the word “Hamas.” As it happened, the FBI was secretly bugging the meeting. It was thus able to record Ahmad calling himself “Omar Yahya,” the better to conceal his identity from Bureau snoops.
When later compelled to testify about the meeting, Ahmed said he couldn’t recall being in Philadelphia, though the tape captured his calling the meeting to order. Awad, too, had a bout of amnesia when asked about the meeting during a 2003 deposition. But the tape showed him to have been a very active participant. When he gave his cohorts the aforementioned advice about American ignorance, his point was that we are easy for Islamists to deceive. Speaking with Americans was different, he posited, from communicating with “the Palestinian who has a martyr brother or something.” A “martyr,” of course, is one who gives his life (often by suicide bombing) in the terror campaign against Israel.
Elaborating on the communications point, Omar Ahmad observed, “There is a difference between you saying, ‘I want to restore the ’48 land,’ and when you say, ‘I want to destroy Israel.’” If you confined yourself to saying the former, Palestinians would understand that you meant the latter, while unwary Americans would figure you were just making a political statement. Similarly, Ahmad suggested saying, “Yasser Arafat doesn’t represent me, but Ahmed Yassin does.” Palestinians would understand that this meant one was a supporter of Hamas (which Yassin founded), while clueless Americans would be in the dark.
Shukri Abu Baker, the HLF leader and a friend of Awad and Ahmad, concurred in that sentiment. The Islamists were at war, he reminded his confederates, and the prophet Mohammed had counseled that “war is deception.”
Deception is CAIR’s métier. It was created precisely because the marked men at the Philadelphia meeting realized they needed a new vehicle: one that was not tainted by a prior history of Hamas support, one that had media savvy, and one that could set up shop in Washington and portray itself as a “civil rights” organization rather than just another Islamist mouthpiece. In America, when lobby groups complain that someone’s civil rights have been violated, opinion elites take notice.
At the Philadelphia meeting, Ahmad complained, “We don’t have influence over the Congress.” The organization he envisioned would accrue political influence “by infiltrating the American media outlets, universities, and research centers.”
CAIR was formed the following summer, with Omar Ahmad and Nihad Awad sliding over from IAP to run it.
There should have been no question, though, about where CAIR was coming from — even for unwary Americans. The IAP had been started by Mousa abu Marzook, the leading Muslim Brotherhood figure in the United States, and Sami al-Arian, a Brotherhood operative who went on to become a top leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another terrorist organization. When Israel apprehended Yassin, Marzook succeeded him as the head of Hamas, running the organization from his Virginia home until he was deported in 1994. Meanwhile, al-Arian turned his teaching perch at the University of South Florida into a PIJ outpost; in 2006, he was finally convicted of conspiring to support a designated terrorist organization.
Under Marzook, the IAP anchored the Palestine Committee. This committee was established by the Muslim Brotherhood to “increase the financial and moral support for Hamas.” At the HLF trial, an internal Muslim Brotherhood report, dated July 30, 1994, identified CAIR, along with the IAP, the HLF, and another Marzook creation, the United Association for Studies and Research, as members of the Palestine Committee. Ghassan Elashi, one of the defendants convicted for using HLF to underwrite Hamas’s terror war, had run an IAP office in California before starting CAIR’s chapter in Texas.
Elashi is just one example of a CAIR figure either convicted or deported as a result of terrorism investigations. There have been several others.
To no one’s surprise, CAIR vigorously opposed al-Arian’s prosecution and Marzook’s deportation, calling the latter “anti-Islamic” and “un-American.” As Daniel Pipes recounts, CAIR also referred to the terrorism conviction of Omar Abdel Rahman (the “Blind Sheikh” behind the cell that bombed the World Trade Center in 1993) as a “hate crime.” When Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States in 1998 and then bombed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, a Los Angeles billboard called him “the sworn enemy”; and CAIR demanded the billboard’s removal, calling it “offensive to Muslims” while denying bin Laden’s responsibility for the embassy attacks.
CAIR’s purpose is to further what the Muslim Brotherhood calls its “grand jihad” to destroy America from within. That is why it is consistently a cheerleader for Islamist terrorists and a thorn in the side of American national security, opposing every sensible measure to protect our homeland.
“Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant,” Ahmad is quoted as saying in 1998. “The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth.”
A key tactic in carrying out this supremacist agenda is to suppress its critics. With their media acumen, CAIR operatives know there is nothing more debilitating for a public figure in America than to be portrayed as a racist or a bigot. Islamists have thus coined the phrase “Islamophobe” to stigmatize those who dare speak forthrightly about the extremely troubling aspects of Islamic scripture, particularly of sharia, Islam’s legal and political framework.
We are not, it bears emphasizing, speaking about people who lie about Islam or smear all Muslims as terrorists. Islamists are targeting the truth-tellers. If they can intimidate their critics into silence, they have inched yet closer to the goal of supplanting our First Amendment with their sharia, which condemns as “blasphemy” any speech or expression that casts Islam in a poor light. Blasphemy can be savagely punished — and, in contrast to the Western idea of defamation, truth is no defense.
Thus is CAIR trying to intimidate the FBI into ostracizing Robert Spencer. As he demonstrates daily at Jihad Watch, the invaluable site he founded, he is effective and immune to Islamist scare tactics. Because Spencer won’t quiet down, CAIR officials have concluded that it will be necessary to have the U.S. government silence him. They know the government, the FBI in particular, has a history of being overly solicitous toward Islamist apologists. They are banking on getting satisfaction out of Mueller, and they’ve brought out the big guns to turn up the heat. Their letter has now been signed by Grievance Industry eminence Jesse Jackson (who better to give sensitivity lessons than the guy who labeled New York City “Hymietown”?) and by such groups as the Islamic Society of North America (another unindicted co-conspirator in the Hamas case, but one for which Obama-administration majordomo Valerie Jarrett nonetheless gave the keynote address at its 2009 annual convention).
If any party is owed an apology or explanation from our government, it is the American people — over the government’s courtship of CAIR. For years, even though the Justice Department was in possession of information showing the key role CAIR officials played in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hamas-support network, government agencies, including the FBI, continued turning to CAIR for “liaison” duties. Top brass forced our law-enforcement agents to endure CAIR-prescribed sensitivity training, and, in the case of the Department of Homeland Security, even published a CAIR press release on an agency’s taxpayer-funded website, enabling CAIR to pass itself off as a civil-rights organization. This went on until finally, following the convictions in the HLF case (to say nothing of the emerging indications that CAIR itself may be under investigation), the FBI cut off ties with the group in 2009, citing its Hamas connections. That was a stand for which Mueller won strong bipartisan praise on Capitol Hill. Here’s hoping he sticks to his guns.
– Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.