CAIR's soft spot for terrorists extends well beyond the Hamas connections documented in yesterday's installment in this comprehensive series on the group. Today we focus on its portrayal of virtually any law enforcement action against radical elements as an assault on all American Muslims.
• Days after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, CAIR-New York Executive Director Ghazi Khankan used an online chat with the Washington Post to launch a weeks-long campaign casting them as part of a conspiracy to discredit Muslims. Citing spurious evidence, he claimed that "many of the names of the terrorists are people impersonating innocent Muslims and Arabs."
CAIR pushed Khankan's misidentification theory in an October 2001 statement, speculating that three of the 19 suspected ‘hijackers' were still alive in the Middle East and asking, "Who is impersonating these three Muslim Arabs? Why are Muslim Arabs been (sic) implicated in this terrorism? And, who could ‘benefit' from this horrific tragedy?"
• CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper similarly hesitated to blame Al Qaeda. "We condemn the attacks on the buildings,'" he told Salon.com, adding, "If Osama bin Laden was behind it, we condemn him by name." Asked why he qualified the response, Salon.com reported, "Hooper said he resented the question."
• As late as June 2005, CAIR-Canada Advisory Board Member Jamal Badawi questioned responsibility for 9/11. Calling the attacks "un-Islamic" and declaring, "I strongly condemn" them, he told the Saudi Gazette it had not yet been confirmed who was actually behind the actions. And at an August 2005 "Know Your Rights" workshop sponsored by CAIR-San Diego, invited speaker Randall Hamud responded to an audience member's comment that there was "still no evidence that Muslims carried out 9/11" by saying, "Maybe a hundred years from now we'll find that out."
Meanwhile, CAIR pursued its consistent opposition to U.S. government prosecution of alleged terrorist financiers and supporters. Thus, for example:
• When the founder and the imam of the Masjid As-Salam mosque in Albany, N.Y. were indicted in 2004 on charges of taking part in what they thought was a plot to buy shoulder-fired missiles and to assassinate a Pakistani diplomat, CAIR warned that such sting operations could be used to "smear Muslims and to demonize Islam." Both men were convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for their role in the plot.
• Three members of a jihad network in Northern Virginia charged in September 2003 with conspiracy to wage war against the United States and conspiracy to provide material support to Al Qaeda were convicted the following March and sentenced, respectively, to life in prison, 85 years and 97 months. CAIR called the sentences "draconian" and cited a "near universal perception in the Islamic community" that the men never would have been charged had they not been Muslims.
• Spokesman Hooper roundly condemned the government's December 2001 action in shutting down the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) for allegedly funneling money to Hamas. He told Cox News the move was "ill-advised and counter-productive" because "the only specific accusation is that [HLF funds] feed the orphans of suicide bombers along with hundreds of other children."
Hussam Ayloush, CAIR-Southern California executive director, appeared on CNN to say that targeting "the most trusted and largest Islamic charitable organization in the U.S…. sends a wrong message to Muslims all over the world, basically, that Israel gets to dictate our foreign policy."
• Enaam Arnaout, executive director of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) was charged with perjury in April 2002 for stating under oath that BIF -- accused of giving financial support to Al Qaeda -- did not support terrorism. CAIR spokesman Jason Erb said the action "really makes American Muslims feel that they are not going to get a fair shake in the justice system," while Hooper accused the government of using "backhanded legal technicalities." In February 2003, Arnaout pled guilty to racketeering conspiracy.
• In September 2001 the FBI raided the offices of Infocom, a computer export company, in an action that was to lead to indictments the following year of the company and its officers on charges of illegally sending computer equipment to Libya and Syria and engaging in financial transactions with Mousa Abu Marzook, a Specially Designated Terrorist.
CAIR joined in a statement blaming Israel. "American Muslims view yesterday's action as just one of a long list of attempts by the pro-Israel lobby to intimidate and silence all those who wish to see Palestinian Muslims and Christians free themselves of a brutal Apartheid-like occupation," the statement read. "We believe the genesis of this raid lies not in Washington, but in Tel Aviv."
Convictions of some of the defendants obtained in July 2004 prompted CAIR Dallas-Fort Worth to issue a statement casting the verdicts as evidence of "a growing disparity and climate of injustice for Muslims, who we feel are being selectively prosecuted and given unfair sentences precisely because they are Muslim or Arab."
• In December 2004, a federal magistrate in Illinois held three American Muslim organizations -- HLF, IAP and the Quranic Literacy Institute (QLI) -- as well as Hamas operative Mohammad Salah, liable in the 1996 death of David Boim. Boim, a 17-year-old New Yorker, was killed by a Hamas gunman while waiting for a bus in the West Bank town of Beit El. Yaser Tabbara, then CAIR-Chicago's executive director, declared the verdict a travesty of justice.
• In August 1995, the Justice Department requested the arrest and extradition to Israel of Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook, whom Israel sought to prosecute for murder. CAIR leapt to his defense in a press conference at which Executive Director Nihad Awad called the case "politically motivated" and charged that "this campaign has been orchestrated to serve as a wedge between America and Islamic countries." Marzook was deported to Jordan in May 1997.
• When University of South Florida Professor Sami Al-Arian was charged in February 2003 with establishing and operating the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) network in the United States, CAIR alleged that his indictment was based on "political considerations." The group launched a lengthy, consistent and continuous defense. Hooper appeared on MSNBC's "Buchanan & Press" to complain that the charges were "politically motivated" and that "the entire controversy began with the attack dogs of the pro-Israel lobby going after Sami Al-Arian."
Though Al-Arian was acquitted in 2005 of eight charges, with the jury deadlocked on nine others, he pled guilty the following April to "conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Specially Designated Terrorist." He also admitted to being "aware that the PIJ achieved its objectives by, among other means, acts of violence."
• After Fawaz Damra, imam of the Islamic Center of Cleveland, was convicted in 2004 of concealing, on his citizenship application, his involvement in groups that advocated "violent terrorist attacks against Jews and others," CAIR-Ohio's executive director defended him as a "great interfaith leader in the Cleveland community." CAIR's defense came despite the fact that jurors in Damra's trial had been shown footage of a 1989 speech in which he said "terrorism and terrorism alone is the path to liberation."
• Radical Egyptian cleric Wagdy Ghoneim was arrested on immigration violations in November 2004 based on Immigration and Customs Enforcement concerns that "his past speeches and participation in fund-raising activities could be supportive of terrorist organizations."
CAIR-Southern California Executive Director Hussam Ayloush questioned the arrest, complaining, "The whole Muslim community today is under a microscope of scrutiny. Committing a mistake that would invite a slap on the wrist for anyone else could lead to prison or deportation for a Muslim." When Ghoneim agreed to leave the country voluntarily in December 2004, Ayloush called his departure "a dent in our civil rights struggle" and lamented the "high level of fear" in the community.
Again, to see the full installment, click here: www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/116.pdf