This article is part of the Organization Trends series.
By Andrew E. Harrod
Summary: The terrorist-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) claims to be America’s largest civil rights organization for Muslims. But its agenda has more to do with the Islamization of America than with protecting Muslims from civil rights abuses.
Capital Research Center last examined the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its aggressive, jihad terrorism-whitewashing Islamists in the August 2005 Organization Trends. CAIR statements and actions in recent years show that this organization, which sprang out of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, has in no way changed its radical spots—a fact that ought to call into question its continuing respectability in media and politics.
Information about CAIR’s revenue sources is surprisingly difficult to come by. IRS filings reveal donations to CAIR by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors ($30,000 since 2008), Silicon Valley Community Foundation ($90,000 since 2008), and Tides Foundation ($5,000 since 2002). CAIR is actually registered as CAIR Foundation Inc., a public charity recognized under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code. That entity reported a budget of $2,632,410 in 2014 and gross receipts of $2,355,032. It also claims to have had 28 employees in 2014 and 40 volunteers. Many of CAIR’s state and local chapters are separately incorporated as nonprofits.
CAIR was founded in 1994 by Nihad Awad, Omar Ahmad, and Rafeeq Jaber. The three men were linked to the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), which was established by senior Hamas operative Mousa Abu Marzook and created to serve as Hamas’ public relations and recruitment arm in the United States. CAIR opened an office in Washington, D.C., by using a $5,000 grant from the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), a charity that the Bush administration closed down in 2001 for collecting money “to support the Hamas terror organization.”
CAIR’s ties to terrorists are recognized on Capitol Hill. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has said, “CAIR is unusual in its extreme rhetoric and its associations with groups that are suspect.” Before leaving Congress in 2013, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) said, “Groups like CAIR have a proven record of senior officials being indicted and either imprisoned or deported from the United States.”
Ghassan Elashi, a co-founder of Texas CAIR, was convicted in 2005 of terrorism-related offenses and sentenced to almost seven years imprisonment. CAIR civil rights director Randall Todd Royer was given 20 years for federal weapons and explosives convictions in 2004. Bassem Khafagi, a community affairs director at CAIR, was convicted in 2003 on bank and visa fraud charges and shipped back to Egypt. Rabih Haddad, a fundraiser for CAIR’s chapter in Ann Arbor, Mich., was detained in 2001 for overstaying his visa. Authorities found a firearm and considerable ammunition in his home. He served 19 months in prison and was then deported to Lebanon in 2003. CAIR board member Abdurahman Alamoudi was sentenced to 23 years imprisonment for directing at least $1 million to al-Qaeda. (See Foundation Watch, December 2015.)
“Contending that American Muslims are the victims of wholesale repression, CAIR has provided sensitivity training to police departments across the United States, instructing law officers in the art of dealing with Muslims respectfully,” according to DiscoverTheNetworks. The estate of 9/11 victim John O’Neill Sr., a senior FBI counter-terrorism agent, filed a lawsuit claiming that CAIR’s goal “is to create as much self-doubt, hesitation, fear of name-calling, and litigation within police department and intelligence agencies as possible so as to render such authorities ineffective in pursuing international and domestic terrorist entities.”
CAIR and its allies have spent years pressuring the FBI to give Muslims special treatment in investigations. As of 2012, FBI agents weren’t allowed to treat individuals associated with terrorist groups as potential threats to the nation, according to an FBI directive titled, “Guiding Principles: Touchstone Document on Training.” The fact that a terrorism suspect is associated with a terrorist group means nothing, according to the document (“Terrorist? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Matthew Vadum, FrontPage Mag, Sept. 24, 2012).
In the aftermath to 9/11, CAIR refused to blame Osama bin Laden for those terrorist attacks. Earlier, in 1998 CAIR denied bin Laden was responsible for two al-Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa. The group claimed the bombings resulted from “misunderstandings of both sides.” The same year CAIR objected to a Los Angeles billboard that called bin Laden “the sworn enemy,” claiming it was “offensive to Muslims.”
Guess who’s coming to dinner
CAIR’s list of gala dinner honorees from its 2015 annual banquet underlines CAIR’s continuing extremism. (CAIR’s aversion towards critical observers kept this writer out of the gala dinner.) CAIR recognized Omar Suleiman, an American sheikh who has defended sex-slavery and encouraged the murder of adulterous Muslim women by family members. He describes himself as an “advocate for a global non-violent resistance to apartheid Israel,” claiming recent stabbing attacks in Israel “are not random acts of violence. They are the unfortunate result and response to decades of…ethnic cleansing of an indigenous people.” Interestingly, his past condemnations of homosexuality as a “repugnant shameless sin” did not prevent him from declaring that Muslims “stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community” before a Texas LGBT group after the Orlando, Florida, massacre earlier this year.
During the same month the annual banquet for CAIR’s New York chapter honored Imam Siraj Wahhaj and the executive director of CAIR’s Florida chapter, Hassan Shibly. A Hezbollah defender, Shibly equates Israeli “apartheid” and “state terrorism” with Nazism, while he supports sharia law in Muslim-majority societies and spews conspiracy theories concerning U.S. national security. Considered by American authorities a possible 1993 World Trade Center bombing conspirator, the pro-jihad, pro-sharia Wahhahj is a former CAIR board member.
CAIR branches invited extremists to their 2016 gala dinners as well. CAIR’s Minnesota chapter honored Johari Abdul-Malik, the imam of a terrorist-tied mosque who has advocated sabotaging Israeli infrastructure. A CAIR-Cincinnati banquet hosted keynote speaker Alaf Husain, vice president of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-derived Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which has decried Israel as an “apartheid” state from its founding. After 9/11, when Husain was president of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) from which ISNA developed, he admitted to a mere “oversight” when links were discovered between the MSA website and terror-tied groups.
CAIR-Cleveland hosted Canadian sheikh Alaa Elsayed and the writer Murtaza Husain. The dinner featured a “Mother’s Day Tribute,” which is ironic, given that Elsayed has supported wife-beating, bigamy, and polygamy. His comments upon a past Canadian honor killing focused on the importance of a daughter wearing a hijab, not her murder by her father.
Yet Husain focuses his literary ire on those who would in any way scrutinize Islam and Muslims. He has called Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaza a “well-coiffed talking monkey,” “native informant,” and “porch monkey,” and he’s described Iranian-American commentator Sohrab Ahmari as “one of the most prominent Iranian ‘Uncle Tom’s’ of the neoconservative movement.” He has condemned American law enforcement surveillance of certain Muslims, while ignoring the valid concerns that led to such scrutiny.
CAIR-Cleveland is no stranger to controversy, having hosted Monzer Taleb, an unindicted terrorism-financing conspirator who sang “I am from Hamas” at a 2009 fundraising banquet. Nonetheless, CAIR’s Florida chapter co-hosted Taleb yet again at a 2014 event in Tampa, and he recently planned to address a Wichita, Kansas mosque, but cancelled after a public outcry. Speaking in his defense and using his own self-description, CAIR-Dallas/Fort Worth executive director Alia Salem reportedly described him as a “motivational speaker and leader within the Muslim community.” He is an “upstanding citizen” and “very prominent community leader” in his Dallas home area, Salem said.
As in life, so in death CAIR’s extremism continues, as shown by CAIR condolences for the deceased Ahmad Sakr in 2015. “Very few people in our community have left a legacy comparable to that of Dr. Sakr,” said CAIR-cofounder Awad of a founding member of the Muslim Brotherhood-derived Muslim Students Association. “My very first few English sermons in 1989 as a student in Austin were read from his books,” said CAIR’s southern California chapter executive director, Hussam Ayloush. “No words can describe how much we owe him.”
Sakr impresses objective observers less in light of his 2011 lectures at a Florida camp for Islamic schoolchildren. In one he declares that “here in America the Congress puts themselves in the position of Allah” by instituting laws contradicting Islam’s supposedly divine decrees. Such a legislature is a false pagan institution, he said. “How can you see Allah on the Day of Judgment and he says ‘you crazy man, you crazy woman you put yourself in my position, you want to take over my position, go to Hell,’” Sakr stated. After asking the schoolchildren whether they are proud as Muslims or Americans (they respond with the expected answer of Muslims), he said that “America is trying to entangle itself with every foreign country and to control it.”
In another children’s camp lecture, Sakr emphasizes the orthodox Islamic understanding that “Islam is a total way of life” in contrast to other religions. Accordingly, not only should Muslims prioritize Islamic commands in case of any conflict with secular governance, but his pupils should seek the Muslim Brotherhood’s goal of an “Islamization of science and technology”; “Islamize your profession,” he stated. Reflecting Suleiman, Sakr said of homosexuality that “all of us have to condemn it and say this is unnatural,” and he referenced the Islamic teaching that God destroyed Sodom with an earthquake.
According to a 2015 Anti-Defamation League (ADL) report, CAIR has a longstanding hatred of Israel, as demonstrated by the CAIR executive director Nihad Awad at a 2014 Washington, D.C., rally. He said Israel is a “terrorist state” and that the American-Israeli Political Action Committee “should have its hand off the United States Congress. They have corrupted our foreign policy.”
CAIR “chapters continue to partner with various anti-Israel groups that seek to isolate and demonize the Jewish State,” the ADL notes, such as the anti-Semitic and jihadist-tied Council on the National Interest (CNI). CAIR and CNI collaborated in presenting a 2006 Washington, D.C., lecture by the Islam apologist Karen Armstrong.
CAIR National Board member Sarwat Husain (no relation) similarly wrote in 2009 that Israel practices “state sponsored terrorism at its best.” “No other country in the world have [sic] terrorized as many people for so long as Israel has for more than half a century.” CAIR-Georgia executive director Edward Ahmed Mitchell has tweeted that the American-Israeli Political Action Committee “is the only explanation for US’s morally bankrupt Israel policy.”
CAIR San Francisco Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA) executive director Zahra Billoo has declared that “Zionism is racism” and that “Israel ‘defending’ itself is analogous to Nazi Germany defending itself from Jewish uprising.”
Mongi Dhaouadi, the executive director of CAIR’s Connecticut chapter, does not let facts disturb the anti-Israel animus. At a 2010 Connecticut rally he ranted that Israel had “murdered” 1,400 people during the 2008-2009 Cast Lead military strikes against Gaza, thereby furthering the completely unsubstantiated charges of indiscriminate use of military force by the Israelis. His CAIR chapter executive director colleague in Arizona, Imraan Siddiqui has referenced debunked propaganda posters that claim “Palestinians were cleansed from their land.”
Not surprisingly, Dhaouadi and Siddiqui have led their respective CAIR chapters in supporting Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. (See Organization Trends, January 2016.) CAIR-CT in 2014 called for Connecticut to sever financial ties to an Israel that “discriminates against its citizens on the basis of ethnicity and wages a war against innocent and unarmed civilians,” according to Dhaouadi. Like CAIR’s California chapter, CAIR-AZ in 2016 opposed an Arizona bill requiring state pension system divestment from any company boycotting Israel. “It would be un-American to deny constituents the right to work to change the illegal and discriminatory actions of a foreign government,” Siddiqui said. In 2011 CAIR’s Los Angeles chapter (CAIR-LA) opposed criminal prosecution of University of California (Irvine) students who disrupted an Israeli ambassador’s speech.
Siddiqui, CAIR-LA former vice president and current CAIR National Board member Masoud Nassimi, Billoo, and CAIR as an organization signed a 2014 statement supporting BDS because “funding racism and Apartheid is un-American.” Supporting the “BDS Campaign to end occupation” would recreate a “non-violent tactic that was employed successfully during the South African freedom struggle.” Among the demands was a Palestinian “right of return” for millions descended from Palestinian refugees.
Corey Saylor, in 2007 the director of CAIR’s Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia, rejected what he called undue reliance on the “Israeli Apartheid lobby.” His antipathy towards Israel flows logically enough from his work from 1998 to 2001 with the now-defunct American Muslims for Jerusalem (AMJ), whose November 1999 fundraising dinner struck one participant as “crudely anti-Jewish.” Speakers like Awad and Abdurahman Alamoudi, who was subsequently convicted on terrorism charges, “vied with one another in verbally assaulting the State of Israel and American Jews,” Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes reported.
Such events were no exception for AMJ, which helped organize a notorious October 28, 2000 rally outside the White House at which Alamoudi expressed support for Hamas and Hezbollah before cheering crowds. AMJ executive director Khalid Turaani likewise attended conferences calling for jihad against Israel. He proclaimed to Palestinians at a 2002 AMJ conference that “Allah will allow you to conquer the land of Palestine. Its men, its women, and its servants are in a state of jihad until the Day of Judgment.” He added that “for too long the extremist pro-Israel groups have literally gotten away with murder” and that “we will never forget Jenin,” a reference to the myth that Israel perpetrated a massacre in that city.
Turaani’s fellow conference speakers included the notorious anti-Semite Alison Weir, who likened the Palestinian terrorist to a “terrorized victim who has tragically but explicably turned to violence.” Even more anti-Semitic was the neo-Nazi William Baker, who invoked the aforementioned Palestinian “Right of Return” in such circles. In their midst CAIR founder Omar Ahmed declared that “pro-Israeli groups have brainwashed Americans.”
Several of the conference speakers such as Yahia Abdul Rahman had links to the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an organization uniting several Muslim Brotherhood groups and individuals. The Islamic supremacist and Hezbollah defender Mather Hathout discussed Israeli “apartheid” and “Israeli-occupied territory” in Congress, a body “more Zionist than the Knesset” (Israel’s parliament). Former ISNA president and jihad/sharia proponent Muzammil Siddiqi stated that “Zionists have created much confusion and misconception in the minds of Americans” concerning Jerusalem. He had discussed Jerusalem at AMJ’s first meeting in Washington in 1999 at which he falsely asserted that “Muslims established and practiced the most tolerant multi-religious and multi-faith character of Jerusalem.”
Contrary to the anti-Israeli invective of CAIR and its allies, CAIR has “for many years…refused to unequivocally condemn Palestinian terror organizations and Hezbollah by name,” ADL notes. Accordingly, in a 2013 interview Ayloush condemned any group that “engages in the harming of civilians” but refused to name Hamas specifically. Any such question concerning Hamas, he added, is “not acceptable,” and “proves that you have nothing but bigotry in you.”
“As a civil rights organization we’re not here in the business of being dragged into the Middle East affairs,” Ayloush said of CAIR, falsely describing it as a purely “American organization.” Organizations like the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) have amply documented CAIR’s serial condemnations of American and Israeli national security policies. Ayloush himself described American support for various dictatorships in Muslim countries as “partly responsible” for the 2015 San Bernardino jihadist massacre.
CAIR might have tried to acquire a more diverse, multicultural image with the 2013 appointment of Jacob Bender as the executive director of the organization’s Philadelphia chapter. Although the “first American Jew to head a chapter of a Muslim community organization,” the ADL notes, “Bender’s previous activism reveals a record of hostility towards the Jewish State that is consistent with CAIR’s anti-Israel agenda.” Bender and CAIR laughably claimed that Islam did not motivate a January 2016 stabbing attack on a Philadelphia policeman by a man screaming “Allahu Akbar.”
A fifth column
CAIR’s ideology presents a threat both to American civil society and U.S. national security. “If we are practicing Muslims, we are above the law of the land,” CAIR Dallas/Fort Worth executive director and Hamas apologist Mustafa Carroll said in 2013. Syed, whose CAIR-Missouri featured in 2013 the venomous Khalid Yasin, once appealed online to Muslims to “Report anti Islamic and anti Muslim content on the internet to appropriate authorities…take actions according to the Shariah.” Given sharia’s death penalty for blasphemy, his call could have lethal implications depending upon where Muslims worldwide heeded it.
Other CAIR members like Dallas leader Alia Salem, speaking after the 2015 Garland, Texas, attack upon a cartoon exhibit that invited artists to depict the Muslim prophet Muhammad, also seem more influenced by sharia than by the principle of free speech. “When does free speech become hate speech, and when does hate speech become incitement to violence?” Salem asked. “Free speech is not the same as responsible speech.” After the publication of the 2005 Danish Muhammad cartoons, Sarwat Husain said that the “West has crossed all the boundaries of civility for the followers of Islam” and displayed “unethical double standards” in equating anti-Semitic expression with criticism of Islam. She decried a “free passport and an open season to degrade Islam, Muslims” for Western media and asked whether they wanted a “right of freedom of expression or an intentional attempt to provoke a violent reaction.” While the “freedom of expression in a democratic society must always be balanced by the no-less-important notion of social responsibility,” the West’s “dogma of free speech and the freedom of expression is destructive to the rest of the world.”
Husain’s condemnation of strict, even satirical scrutiny of Islam, makes sense given her one-sided adulation of Islam, as indicated by an article of hers from Christmas 2015. Her ecumenical appeal to Christians that “Islam respects and honors Jesus as a prophet, the same way it respects and honors Muhammad” falsely equated Quran 98:5 with Jesus’ Greatest Commandment. While this commandment directs Jesus’ followers to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” the zakat in Quran 98:5 does not have the common meaning of “charity” as translated by her. Rather, the almsgiving demanded by Islamic doctrine from its followers resembles more a compulsory tax serving only the Islamic community, including its jihad-related military demands. (“Uncharitable,” by Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, April 23, 2011)
Husain also draws a deceptive equivalence between the Greatest Commandment’s “Love the Lord your God” and Quran 98:5’s stipulation that believers “were not commanded except to worship Allah.” Yet this worship must have the “correct religion,” as the subsequent verse 98:6 condemns rejecters of Islam as the “worst of creatures” who “will be in the fire of Hell,” an important caveat considering the differences between Christianity and Islam. As Husain herself wrote in 2010, Islam claims that Jesus was not crucified, but rather “God saved Jesus and took him to paradise until the hour would come to complete his mission in the end of time.”
Husain’s dubious assessments of Islam extend beyond theology to more temporal matters like women’s rights as shown by her participation in a 2006 St. Edward’s University panel in Austin, Texas. As a reporter recounted, Husain “felt privileged to be a part of a religion that gave so many rights to its women” and believed that the “fight for feminism in the West has been done already for Muslim women in Islam.” While women worldwide have struggled for equality for centuries, supposedly “all those rights were given to women 1,400 years ago” in Islam, according to her and notwithstanding numerous Islamic doctrines oppressing women internationally today. While she has recounted the lasting success of her arranged marriage at the age of 17 in India to a man she had never met, abusive Islamic child marriages in Nigeria, for example, have been far less blissful.
Like Husain, other CAIR officials unswervingly express a Panglossian optimism about the House of Islam’s condition. CAIR’s website proclaims that “several scholarly works suggest that religion (Islam) is not the cause of terrorism,” while the executive director of CAIR’s Minnesota chapter, Jaylani Hussein, argued during a terrorism case that jihad did not mean “holy war.” “In America the greatest threat to any American is right-wing extremism,” Syed stated in 2015.
CAIR’s Oklahoma chapter executive director Adam Soltani tweeted after Orlando jihadist slaughter that “there is absolutely nothing in Islam that calls for the killing of homosexuals or anyone else for that matter.” Siddiqui made similar claims completely contrary to the lethal facts concerning Islamic doctrinal condemnation of homosexuality. In turn, Ahmed Bedier, CAIR-Tampa’s founder and past leader who has accused Israel of “Nazi-like tactics,” presented at CAIR-CT’s 2010 banquet various World War II Muslims who, he said, were heroic because they sheltered Jews during the Holocaust while the “Catholic Church looked the other way.” His analysis not only involves discredited accusations against the Vatican, but ignores various Islamic genocidal ambitions against the Jews both during and after the Holocaust.
For CAIR officials like Cyrus McGoldrick, CAIR-New York’s America- and Israel-hating former civil rights director, a top concern is an irrational “Islamophobia” prejudicially targeting Muslims. “War depends on Islamophobia. Zionism depends on Islamophobia,” he said in 2012. “This goes back to the original colonization of this country and moving Native Americans into concentration camps that we call reservations.”
CAIR’s “Islamophobia” obsession often reaches absurd dimensions, such as when CAIR-Florida in April “condemned a xenophobic alert sent out by the University of Central Florida.” In this case involving a false report of a gunman on campus, CAIR-Florida inexplicably criticized “‘Middle Eastern origin’ as part of the alleged suspect description.” CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper urged in 2013 with like ludicrousness that media avoid the now ubiquitous term “Islamist.” This “has become shorthand for ‘Muslims we don’t like’” and a word “currently used in an almost exclusively pejorative context.”
In CAIR’s twisted understanding moderate Muslims like Zuhdi Jasser who publicly confront dangers from within their faith face derision as “Uncle Tom Muslims” and “Uncle Zuhdi” from Billoo and Dhaouadi respectively. Billoo has repeatedly condemned American military personnel on several Memorial Days, leveling the accusation that they are “engaged in terrorism.” Yet Dhaouadi has uncritically quoted Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna, and Billoo has expressed admiration for convicted terrorism supporter (and CAIR-SFBA honoree) Sami Al-Arian and faux moderate Muslim Tariq Ramadan.
For all of their vitriol against United States Navy veteran Jasser and his fellow service members, Billoo and Dhaouadi have never condemned their fellow CAIR chapter executive director in Michigan, Dawud Walid. He has supported Hamas involvement in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, claimed that Muslims have “no other choice” but suicide bombing attacks against Israel, and espoused various conspiracy accusations against law enforcement. In glaring contradiction to Sarwat Husain, one of his 2016 Facebook postings condemned saying “Happy Easter” to Christians as a blasphemous affirmation of Christianity’s triune understanding of God. “Who are those who incurred the wrath of Allah?” Walid asked in a 2012 sermon. “They are the Jews.”
Nonetheless, no one should expect Husain to expose Walid’s assaults on interfaith harmony, given her history of duplicity. The Investigative Project on Terrorism caught her in 2008 observing that “it is very important, media in the United States is very gullible” and “especially as a Muslim, if you have something to say, they’ll come running to you. And take advantage of that.” A CAIR slide also revealed by the Investigative Project revealingly described the “Characteristics of a Journalist” as “They will expect you to do their work. Let them…Does little primary research…Under extreme deadline pressure…Fears charges of inaccuracy.”
While journalists may labor under such shortcomings, the double games of Husain and others provide a clear, compelling indictment of CAIR’s nefariousness. There is simply no justification for responsible authorities to respect CAIR’s claim to be the “nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization” when the group conceals its jihadist agenda. The group’s harmful actions were devastating in 2011, when CAIR and 56 other organizations successfully convinced the federal government to purge training materials of derogatory information about Islamic doctrine. Instead, government officials should follow the FBI’s 2008 decision to end normal relations with CAIR, an organization that is freedom’s foe, not friend, more meriting of prosecution than policy influence .
Andrew E. Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a J.D. from George Washington University Law School. He is admitted to the Virginia State Bar.