An Important Update on Ohio and Our Fight Against Anti-Muslim Hate Groups

As many of you may have followed on national media, our broader CAIR network was targeted by an Islamophobic group, Steven Emerson’s IPT. We wanted to share CAIR-National’s message about this attack on our communities, including information about the former CAIR-Ohio employee who collaborated with this anti-Muslim group.

The top-line information that we wanted to assure you have is:

  • CAIR-Pennsylvania’s data systems and confidential information are fully secure, intact, and were not breached
  • Years of spying on our collective advocacy work on behalf of American Muslim communities did not produce an ounce of dirt on our organization or the work we do on your behalf.
  • We will continue our fight against bigots that seek to smear and do our community harm.
  • Help empower our principled stance against anti-Muslim groups. Make an end-of-the-year donation to our office.
  • If you can’t donate, please help support our work by sharing this message with your contacts.
  • See Twitter thread describing what happened.

In the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
All praise and thanks belong to God, the Lord of the Worlds,
May peace and prayers be upon Prophet Muhammad and his family 

“….they plan, and Allah plans, and Allah is the best of planners.” The Quran 8:30

Asalaamu alaykum brothers, sisters and friends of CAIR: 

On behalf of our entire CAIR team, I hope that you and your families are doing well and staying safe. I am reaching out today to share important news about CAIR’s fight against Islamophobia.

As you know, a critical part of our work is monitoring and combatting anti-Muslim groups, which spend millions of dollars every year to demean, harass and endanger our community. Last year, our national office received extensive and unprecedented information about the inner workings of one of those organizations, the so-called Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). 

IPT was founded by Steven Emerson, a far-right extremist described as an anti-Muslim activist by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Emerson faced international ridicule after a humiliating Fox News interview in 2015, and largely disappeared from mainstream media afterward. 

However, the extensive information CAIR received showed that Emerson’s hate group was still active and obsessively monitoring remarks delivered by Muslim public figures. Evidence indicated that Emerson was cursing, threatening and otherwise mistreating his staff for failing to produce enough Islamophobic content.  

The evidence also indicated that Emerson’s hate group was communicating with and providing assistance to Israeli intelligence with the office of then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Let me say that again. The Israeli government was collaborating with an anti-Muslim hate group. 

Although this was a major discovery, the evidence revealed something even more disturbing: Emerson’s hate group had spent years trying to infiltrate and spy upon prominent mosques and Muslim American organizations using “moles” among their staff and volunteers. One of the organizations targeted was the Columbus, Ohio, chapter of CAIR.  

After learning about this situation, we hired an outside law firm and a forensic specialist to vet the evidence we received and provide us with an evidentiary report. We also alerted other Muslim community leaders whose groups were targeted so that they could perform their own investigations.  

Last month, our forensic investigator provided her report. The report confirmed that the key evidence we received was authentic and that an employee of a local CAIR affiliate had indeed been secretly working with a hate group.  

That employee was Romin Iqbal of CAIR-Ohio.  

For years, Mr. Iqbal was secretly sharing confidential information about our civil rights work—including surreptitiously recorded conversations, strategic plans and private emails—with anti-Muslim extremists. He did this in violation of his ethical duties to the organization and his moral duty to protect the Ohio Muslim community.  

The local chapter’s Board of Directors has fired Mr. Iqbal–who confessed to working with the hate group after being confronted with the evidence against him– and secured their organization’s key data, assets and infrastructure. CAIR National has also confirmed the safety and security of our systems. Mr. Iqbal never had access to our data or the data of other local offices, which operate separately and maintain strong security protocols.  

We are now working closely with the CAIR-Ohio team to hold Mr. Iqbal, this anti-Muslim hate group and those who worked with them—whether foreign or domestic actors—accountable for their conduct, which may have violated numerous state and federal laws.  

We thank Allah for exposing this plot to us, and we thank Allah for protecting us from harm. “…they plan, and Allah plans, and Allah is the best of planners.”  

Sadly, this hate group’s attempt to spy upon on mosques and Muslim organizations was not surprising. Civil rights advocates have been targeted by infiltrators for decades. From Malcolm X and Fred Hampton to anti-apartheid activists, those who stand for justice have repeatedly been targeted by those who stand for injustice.  

The fact that anti-Muslim bigots are so obsessed with CAIR’s work is a badge of honor and a testament to the importance of our work. The great irony of this situation is that this hate group and its allies never found any damaging information to use against us or other Muslim organizations. That is a testament to the integrity of the Muslim American community.  

Finally, please know that we continue to investigate this situation further. There is more information that we cannot share publicly at this time. Rest assured that we plan to do everything that we can to protect American Muslims from the harm of hate groups.  

As always, we thank you for your trust and support. We encourage you to redouble your support for our work to fight anti-Muslim bigotry across the United States.  

With thanks,  

Nihad Awad
National Executive Director
Council on American-Islamic Relations 

Thank you for your generous support of CAIR-Philadelphia’s work.

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