Open response to smear column against CAIR in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Open response to smear column against CAIR in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Mr. Benyamin Korn and Jewish Americans for Sarah Palin

See: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/20100729_Group_has_ties_to_terrorists.html
And: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/20100729_Attacks_are_no_more_than_right-wing_fear-mongering.html

Copy-pasting nonsense from the internet can be easily refuted. Below is a line by line deconstruction of Mr. Korn’s attack column and open honesty regarding all allegations. We invite you to learn more about CAIR in the process of reading through.

Does it matter if a candidate for U.S. Senate served as a keynote speaker for an extremist group? Does it matter if he hired one of the group’s staff to serve on his staff? These are some of the questions being asked about Rep. Joe Sestak as voters learn about his ties to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

We agree, it matters.

CAIR’s representatives have not been shy about saying how they feel about Hamas, which the U.S. government classifies as a terrorist group. CAIR executive director Nihad Awad has said, “I am in support of the Hamas movement more than the PLO,” the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Classic right wing tactic: out of context quotes.

In response to a direct question from an audience member about social programs in the occupied territories, Awad said, “I’m in support of the Hamas movement more than the PLO.” This excerpt was lifted from a longer answer in which Awad also stated: “There are some radicals. We are not interested in those people.”

This statement was made in March 1994, before CAIR was formed. Hamas did not commit its first suicide bombing until October 1994 and was not known for terrorism. The United States subsequently identified Hamas as a specially designated terrorist in January 1995.

Thus, Awad’s remarks came several months prior to any terrorism and nine months before the organization received the specially designated terrorist label from the government. (Awad’s response to suicide bombings: “My position and CAIR’s position is extremely clear – we condemn suicide bombings” Associated Press, 9/22/2006)

Awad and CAIR have consistently denounced violence by Hamas, Israel and other entities and advocated peaceful and negotiated resolutions to conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere.

When pressed by reporters, CAIR representatives blandly condemn terrorism in general, but they never concede that groups such as Hamas or Hezbollah are terrorist organizations. That’s because the supposed terrorism CAIR has in mind is Israel’s.

Anyone who commits terrorism is evil and despicable, that includes Hamas and Hezbollah. CAIR will never get involved with school-yard word games, but will speak truth. The truth is, the entire region is a shame on humanity. Hamas, Hezbollah and the Israeli government have all committed shameful atrocities.

See here for more about CAIR’s consistent and persistent condemnations of terrorism:
http://www.cair.com/Portals/0/CAIR%20on%20Terrorism.pdf

CAIR’s ties to terrorism are public knowledge. Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) pointed out during a Senate hearing that the group “has ties to terrorism.” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) rescinded the award she had given to CAIR amid criticism of the group’s connections to terrorism.

Senators Schumer and Boxer may have said that due to lobbying campaigns against CAIR in their respective states. We recognize, with sadness, that it is normal for mud to be slung in political discourse. The way you smear Muslims in the 21st century is to call them terror supporters.

Allow us to offer you some examples of elected officials in support of CAIR:

“As Governor and on behalf of all Pennsylvanians, I thank everyone involved with CAIR-PA for your commitment to serving the needs of our commonwealth’s Muslim community and building a stronger, more united Pennsylvania.”
– Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D)

“I particularly want to commend CAIR for working to educate others about Islam, a religion of more than one billion people in the world. CAIR also has provided members of the Muslim community in the United States with an important voice in promoting social justice and mutual understanding. CAIR has 31 offices nationwide and in Canada and through your work you have helped promote a dialogue among employers, law enforcement officials, and government agencies. CAIR understands the importance of developing mutual understanding and trust.”
– Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD)

“I applaud the efforts of CAIR, its Ohio chapter and the American Islamic community…”
– Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-OH)

“I applaud CAIR’s mission to enhance understanding and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.”
– Former Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) (November 2006)

“I applaud CAIR for its important role in advocating for civil liberties, enhancing the understanding of Islam, and condemning acts of terrorism.”
– Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) (November 2008)

“CAIR has a long and distinguished history of consistent efforts that reflect a strong support for civil rights and social programs that promote the understanding and cultural heritage of the rapidly growing Muslim American community.”
– Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) (October 2009)

“CAIR plays a vitally important role in Washington and around the country in its advocacy for civil liberties and its fight against bigotry and discrimination.”
– Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) (November 2007)

“I know that the CAIR organization will continue to meet the needs of its members in the decade ahead.”
– Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI) (March 2010)

“As a firm believer in civil rights, I appreciate CAIR’s effort to defend the Constitution by safeguarding the rights of all Americans against infringements of freedom of expression and religion.”
– Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) (October 2009)

“I commend you for your work on civil rights for every member of our community and for your advocacy for justice, tolerance and a better America.”
– Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) (October 2007)

“Far too often, the remarkable work and achievements of organizations such as CAIR are overlooked.”
– Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) (December 2005)

“I would like to commend the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the work you do defending civil liberties, empowering American Muslims and building coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.”
– Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-VA) (October 2007)

“I applaud your efforts in educating and enhancing understanding through open dialogue.”
– Rep. Wayne T Gilchrest (R-MD) (November 2005)

“CAIR’s commitment to social justice and civil rights for all Americans will help our country to ensure that respect and tolerance exists for people of all religions and ethnicities.”
– Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) (November 2008)

“Your dedication to the community is most admirable. Because of your efforts the lives of many citizens have been enriched.”
– Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI) (November 2007)

“I salute the Council for encouraging diversity, equality and acceptance of Muslim Americans. Your work is essential to making this country a more perfect union.”
– Rep. Jesse L. Jackson (D-IL) (November 2007)

There are many more testimonials, but for the sake of brevity, you can see more here: https://pa.cair.com/about/what-they-say/

What connections? In 2007, in charging the Holy Land Relief and Development Fund with raising money for Hamas, federal prosecutors named CAIR as an unindicted coconspirator.

In August 2007 Newsweek reported, “According to one senior law-enforcement official (who asked not to be named talking about an ongoing case), the listing of ISNA, CAIR and other groups as ‘unindicted co-conspirators’ was largely a tactical move by the government.” (Newsweek, 8/08/2007)

Bush administration prosecutors brazenly listed 307 American Muslim organizations and individuals who were among the most outspoken critics of his administration as “unindicted co-conspirators.” Unindicted of course, because there is zero court-admissible evidence to suggest that they are in anyway related to terrorism. The accused have not and will not have an opportunity to face their accusers in a court of law, precisely because they are unindicted. But that does not matter; the intention was only ever to smear the reputation of the accused in order to undermine their credibility and thus defang their otherwise very effective advocacy.

The UCC list includes three of the largest American Muslim organizations – The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA, the largest Muslim organization in America), The North American Islamic Trust (NAIT, the largest Muslim endowment/trust in America) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (the largest Muslim civil liberties group in America).

Making the UCC list public contradicts the Justice Department’s own guidelines, which indicate that such lists are to remain sealed to prevent the unfair labeling of those who have not been involved in any wrongdoing.

Moreover, a number of CAIR officials have been personally involved in terrorism. Former CAIR civil rights coordinator Randall Royer, for example, is serving a 20-year jail term for his involvement with the Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba. That’s the group responsible for the heinous attack on a Jewish center in India last year, in which a rabbi and his wife were tortured and murdered.

The founder of a CAIR chapter in Texas, Ghassan Elashi, is serving a 65-year prison term for assisting Hamas. And CAIR fund-raiser Rabih Haddad, whose charity was suspected of supporting terrorism, was deported from the United States.

The short answer to this is guilt by association. CAIR has hundreds of board members and employees and thousands of supporters. It would be illogical and unfair to hold CAIR responsible for the personal activities of all these people.

For example, when Aldrich Ames (CIA) and Robert Hanssen (FBI) admitted to being spies for foreign governments, it did not automatically associate the CIA or FBI with being complicit in any of these criminal activities. Currently, former members of US Congress are serving jail time and others are under the cloud of ethical suspicion. Does such behavior by members of Congress while in office incriminate the entire U.S. Congress?

The acts of a person done outside the scope or duration of his or her employment, and without the employer’s knowledge, have no legal bearing on the employer.

CAIR believes that anyone who is found guilty of committing a crime, especially one that furthers terrorist motives, should receive a fair, objective trial and, if found guilty, be punished to the fullest extent of the law. CAIR would never compromise its principles, both American and Islamic, in the furtherance or assistance of any illegal endeavors.

McCarthy-like attempts to portray CAIR as guilty by association with certain individuals evoke memories of attempts to smear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a communist or womanizer.

RANDALL ROYER

In January 2004, Royer pled guilty to weapons charges. He did not plead guilty to any charge of “terrorism” or association with any foreign group. Any criminal action to which he pleaded guilty was done when Royer was no longer employed with CAIR (he was in fact dismissed by CAIR) and it was certainly not at CAIR’s direction.

RABIH HADDAD

Haddad was never an employee of CAIR, was deported for overstaying his tourist visa and was never charged with a crime. He was never an employee or associate of CAIR. He was not a “CAIR fundraiser,” as is sometimes claimed.

GHASSAN ELASHI

Elashi was never an employee or officer of CAIR, nor a founder. The fact that Elashi was once briefly associated with one of our Texas chapters has no legal significance to our corporation. Any illegal actions he took were outside the scope and chronology of his association with one of our chapters.

Despite all this, Sestak hired CAIR’s director of communications in Philadelphia, Adeeba Al-Zaman, to work in his new Washington office in 2007. Soon thereafter, Al-Zaman had arranged for Sestak to be invited to speak at CAIR’s Philadelphia dinner that year.

Sestak accepted the invitation to headline the dinner. Members of the Jewish community met with him beforehand and pleaded with him to cancel, citing CAIR’s terrorism ties. But Sestak wouldn’t budge.

To this day, Sestak refuses to acknowledge that his appearance at the dinner was a mistake. Instead, his campaign has tried to pressure Comcast to stop broadcasting an advertisement challenging his record on Israel. A letter from Sestak’s lawyer demanded that the ad be suppressed because it falsely characterized Sestak as anti-Israel.

The proof of Sestak’s sympathy for Israel, Sestak’s lawyer implausibly claimed, is that as a Navy officer he took part in joint American-Israeli military exercises and thereby “put his life on the line to defend Israel.” Pardon me for doubting that an Arab army would attack Israel during a joint American-Israeli military exercise.

A more convincing demonstration of Sestak’s alleged sympathy for Israel would be a clear denunciation of the Israel-haters of CAIR.

Joe Sestak’s relationship with this group matters. U.S. senators play an important role in shaping our foreign policy. Pennsylvanians of all faiths who value America’s national security will want a senator who recognizes the need to reject those with links to terrorism, not speak at their fund-raisers and hire their employees.

CAIR is an American organization, concerned about America and freedom of religion, not Israel or foreign conflicts. Despite the attempts by our detractors, the Pennsylvania Muslim community continues to fund and support CAIR-PA. Nearly every mosque in the greater Philadelphia area is familiar with and appreciates CAIR-PA.

In its 16 year history of public advocacy, CAIR has not been charged with anything but professional American activism, and it has earned praise from countless elected officials and the interfaith community. CAIR has consistently condemned all forms of terrorism without pause.

Just recently, CAIR’s National Washington D.C. office offered sympathies and support to the members of a vandalized synagogue in Maryland. CAIR’s principled advocacy is clear and consistent. Internet smearing and copy-pasting by our detractors will not sidetrack us from our mission of a better America, one that promotes religious freedom for all.

CAIR is a high-profile organization that represents a minority in the United States that is often treated as suspect and frequently subjected to discrimination. We recognize that this very public profile, along with our community’s current struggle to find full acceptance in our nation’s pluralistic landscape, will draw the ire of nativists, bigots and those who seek to profit from the Islamophobic “fear industry.”

CAIR board chairman and South Carolina State Senator Larry Shaw summed up the truth of the organization’s mission when he issued the following statement in March, 2009: “CAIR exists to uphold the right to liberty that Americans are guaranteed under the Constitution. We will challenge any attempts to erode constitutionally-protected liberties. We will also continue to work to ensure that American Muslims play a positive and productive role in our society.

“In carrying out our mission of promoting justice and mutual understanding, we honor and will continue to learn from groups who have faced similar challenges, including African-Americans, Asian-Americans and many others.

“CAIR embraces the cultural and religious pluralism that is a hallmark of America and repudiates any misuse of Islam to falsely justify violence or intolerance.

“We look forward to partnering with the Obama administration to help defend civil liberties and to project to the world the best of our nation’s universal, constitutional and pluralistic values of freedom and justice.”

We realize that many people and entities are subjected to the misinformation campaign about CAIR. It is our hope that those who seek the truth and are willing to evaluate the full picture share these responses with interested individuals and entities.

Actions speak louder than words. Instead of lying, twisting words and using internet smear tactics, judge an organization for what it has done and actually stood up for.

Here is CAIR’s entire 16 year history of statements and advocacy, you be the judge: https://pa.cair.com/about/who-we-are/