VRozenman, Eric
VRozenman, Eric

Take care when CAIR is quoted as a reliable source

After the Fort Hood shooting massacre in November, allegedly carried out by Maj. Nidal Hasan, USA Today used a quote from Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations — but identified CAIR only as “a Muslim advocacy group.”

Eric Rozenman

When five American Muslims from the Alexandria, Va., area were arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of intent to wage jihad, the Washington Post in December reported without context that “two major groups — the Muslim Public Affairs Council and CAIR — said this week that they would launch counter-radicalization programs aimed at young people.”

News media often treat CAIR uncritically as a civil rights organization.

But CAIR was an unindicted co-conspirator in a major terrorism funding case. And at least five people associated with CAIR, including some who were staff members at the time of their charges, have been jailed or deported on terrorism-related charges.

In December, NPR introduced a segment with Hooper about the Americans arrested in Pakistan by alluding to something more: “ … It’s important to note that there’s been a contentious relationship between CAIR and the FBI in recent years.”

But details such as the following were absent:

• In 2009, Ghassan Elashi and Shukri Abu Baker, founding members of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, once America’s largest Muslim charity, were each sentenced to 65 years in prison in a federal case charging HLF with funneling more than $12 million to Hamas.

Hamas is responsible for the murders of hundreds of Israelis. Elashi also was a founder of CAIR’s Texas chapter and had been convicted in a 2004 Hamas-related case.

• Mousa Abu Marzook, a one-time CAIR official, was designated by the U.S. government in 1995 as a “terrorist and Hamas leader.” He now helps direct Hamas from Syria.

• Randall Royer, CAIR’s former civil rights coordinator, began serving a 20-year federal sentence in 2004 for, among other things, helping al Qaida and the Taliban fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan and recruiting for Lashkar e-Taiba, the jihadi network blamed for the 2008 Mumbai massacres.

• Bassem Khafagi, CAIR’s former community relations director, was arrested for involvement with the Islamic Assembly of North America. IANA was suspected of aiding sheiks opposed to the Saudi Arabian government and linked to al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Khafagi pleaded guilty to visa and bank fraud charges and was deported.

• Rabih Haddad, once a CAIR fundraiser, was arrested on terrorism-related charges. In 2002, the U.S. Treasury designated the Global Relief Foundation, which Haddad had co-founded, as a terrorist-financing organization. He was deported.

• In 2009, members of the Somali immigrant community in Minneapolis protested at a CAIR ice cream social, alleging that the group had discouraged local Somalis from cooperating with the FBI. The bureau was investigating the disappearance of at least 20 young Somali American men, who reportedly traveled to Somalia to wage jihad against the U.N.-supported transitional government.

• In 2006, CAIR reached an out-of-court settlement with a Web site called anti-cair-net.org.

The agreement seemed to let stand three of five original claims made by the Web site: that the group was founded by Hamas members, that it was founded by Islamic terrorists and that it was funded by Hamas supporters.

• In 2000, CAIR attacked “Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews,” co-authored by Khalid Duran.

The council reportedly claimed that the book, part of an American Jewish Committee series on interreligious understanding, and praised by the crown prince of Jordan, tarnished Islam’s image. Shortly after, Sheik Abd Al-Munim Abu Zant, of Jordan’s extremist Islamic Action Front, called for Duran’s “blood to be shed.”

• CAIR’s Hooper once was quoted as saying 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.”

• CAIR co-founders Omar Ahmad and Nihad Awad, the council’s current executive director, had been members of the Islamic Association for Palestine. Other IAP founders included abu Marzook (of Hamas) and Sami al-Arian (the former University of South Florida professor who pled guilty to raising money for and supporting Palestinian Islamic Jihad). Islamic Jihad, like Hamas, is designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization.

When reporters turn to CAIR as a credible source on Islam in America, readers, listeners and viewers should ask why.

Eric Rozenman is the Washington, D.C.–based director of CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. This piece first appeared in Washington Jewish Week.