Council on American-Islamic Relations

From Academic Kids

Template:Message box The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is the largest Muslim civil rights organization in North America. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, its stated goals are to promote a positive image of Islam in the United States, empower the American Muslim community, and promote understanding. Its critics charge that the group has ties to terrorist organizations and does not do enough to denounce Islamist terrorism worldwide.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with 31 regional offices and chapters in the U.S. and Canada, CAIR was founded in 1994 by Nihad Awad, Omar Ahmad, and other former members of the Islamic Association of Palestine, which in turn was founded by senior Hamas figure Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, later deported from the U.S.

CAIR has been critical of a number of U.S. criminal prosecutions, arguing, for example, that Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, deemed the ringleader of the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, and convicted of conspiring to blow up the Lincoln Tunnel and other New York City landmarks, did not receive a fair trial.

In 2003, the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union gave its annual Liberty Flame Award to the Ohio chapter of Cair "for contributions to the advancement and protection of civil liberties." [1] (


Criticism of CAIR

Though CAIR has received public recognition and endorsement by prominent public figures, including President George W. Bush and Democrat Nancy Pelosi, high-ranking members of CAIR have taken stances that many critics say belie its self-portrayal as a moderate organization dedicated to civil rights for Muslims. Immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks, President Bush included CAIR, which had endorsed his 2000 campaign, [2] ( in several public functions. However, the administration is since reported to have renounced its ties with CAIR over the latter's alleged support for Hezbollah and Hamas. [3] (

Critics point to several public comments, including those made by Omar Ahmad, who told a crowd of Californian Muslims in July 1998: "Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran ... should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth." [4] ( In 1994, Nihad Awad declared during a meeting at Barry University that he was a "supporter of the Hamas movement." [5] (

Critics have also taken aim at CAIR's fundraising. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, CAIR's website solicited donations for what it called the "NY/DC Emergency Relief Fund." However, clicking on the donation link led to a website for donations to the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), a charity whose assets were later frozen by the United States Department of the Treasury because, according to United States Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, HLF "masquerade[d] as a charity, while its primary purpose [was] to fund Hamas."

CAIR also attracted criticism when, according to news reports, Awad wrote in the Muslim World Monitor that the World Trade Center bombing trial was "a travesty of justice," and suggested that "there is ample evidence indicating that both the Mossad and the Egyptian Intelligence played a role in the explosion.'" [6] ( However, during a 2002 interview with an Australian news radio reporter, Awad denied those reports, calling them a "total fabrication" and saying he had been misquoted. [7] (

CAIR's alleged support of terrorism

CAIR's leadership and members are alleged to have supported organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Both have been classified by the United States Department of State as terrorist organizations. Among the criticisms leveled at CAIR are affiliation with Islamist imams, the instigation of death threats against moderate American Muslims, and the promotion of anti-Semitism.

Some Muslim organizations in the United States have also condemned CAIR. Sheik Muhammad Hisham Kabbani of the Islamic Supreme Council of America (ISCA) denounced CAIR, saying: "There are many Muslim organizations that claim to speak on behalf of the Muslim community but that in reality are not moderate, but extremist."

Seif Ashmawy, an Egyptian Muslim and peace activist, who published the "Voice of Peace" newsletter about Muslim affairs, said: "It is a known fact that [CAIR has] defended, apologized for, and rationalized the actions of extremists groups ... The real challenge for moderates like myself is to prevent my Muslim brethren from [being] deceived by extremist groups that pretend to represent their interests."

Steven Pomerantz, former FBI assistant director and chief of the FBI's counter-terrorism section, once charged that CAIR's activities "effectively give aid to international terrorist groups." Other American Muslim leaders have raised questions about their possible alliances with radical groups, and many academics are disturbed by the groups' prominence.

A number of other CAIR officials have been charged with, and some convicted of, offenses related to the support of Islamist terrorism.

  • On February 2, 1995, CAIR advisory board member Imam Siraj Wahaj was named by the Office of the U.S. Attorney as one of several "unindicted persons who may be alleged as co-conspirators in the attempt to blow up New York City monuments," including the World Trade Center in 1993. He has called for replacing the American government with an Islamic caliphate, warned that America will crumble unless it submits to Islam, and was a character witness during Abdel-Rahman's World Trade Center bombing trial.
  • On December 18, 2002, Ghassan Elashi, a founding board member of CAIR-Texas and a co-founder of the Holy Land Foundation, was arrested by the FBI on charges of having ties with front groups that fund Islamic terrorism. In 2005, Elashi and two of his brothers were convicted on 21 counts of federal terrorism charges related to funding Hamas.
  • In January 2003, CAIR's director of community relations and founder of the Islamic Assembly of North America, Bassem Khafagi, was arrested by the FBI on charges of having ties to front groups that fund Islamist terrorism. Khafagi pleaded guilty to charges of visa and bank fraud, and agreed to be deported to Egypt.
  • In August 2003, CAIR's civil-rights coordinator, Randall "Ismail" Royer, was arrested on charges of possessing "in his automobile an AK-47-style rifle and 219 rounds of ammunition" in September 2001, and conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda and to the Taliban. He pleaded guilty and is serving 20 years in federal prison.

CAIR named as defendant in 9/11 terror lawsuit

In December 2004, CAIR was named as a defendant in a class-action lawsuit relating to the 9/11 terror attacks. [8] ( In the complaint, the plaintiff alleged that CAIR is a "front organization for Hamas that engages in propaganda for Islamic militants," and "manipulate[s] the legal systems of the United States and Canada in a manner that allows them to silence critics, analysts, commentators, media organizations, and government officials by leveling false charges of discrimination, libel, slander and defamation." The complaint also accused CAIR of fundraising under the guise of operating as a humanitarian organization, but in reality using those funds to promote terrorism and terrorist groups.

CAIR's disputes with critics

Investigative journalist Steven Emerson and conservative columnist Michelle Malkin have criticized CAIR for attacking public speakers and celebrities who have criticized Islamic extremism. [9] ([10] ( [11] (

  • Steven Emerson: Since 2000, CAIR has accused Emerson of being "an enemy of Islam". [12] (
  • Khalid Duran: CAIR has criticized Khalid Duran, the author of Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews. [14] (
  • Don Imus: In December 2004, CAIR began speaking against CAIR critic Don Imus. The group also filed a complaint with the FCC over comments made on a radio broadcast, in which one of his guests referred to Palestinians as "stinking animals". [15] (
  • Paul Harvey: In December 2003, CAIR spoke out against talk-show commentator Paul Harvey after he stated that Islam encourages killing. [16] (
  • Laura Schlessinger: In November 2003, CAIR voiced their disapproval of conservative talk radio host Laura Schlessinger, better known as Dr. Laura. CAIR's complaint was in response to these remarks Schlessinger made on the air:
"I am so sick and tired of all the Arab-American groups whining and complaining about some kind of treatment. What culture and what religion were all the murderers of 9-11? They murdered us." [17] (
  • Andrew Whitehead: In 2004, CAIR initiated a lawsuit against Andrew Whitehead, a prominent critic of CAIR and the editor of the Anti-CAIR website. [18] ( CAIR is suing Whitehead for libel and asking for $1.35 million in damages. [19] ( Whitehead has counter-sued. [20] (
The Life and Religion of Mohammed, a book written in 1912 by a priest in India which states that Islam is a religion of pillaging, warfare, conquests and butcheries.
The Sword of the Prophet: The politically incorrect guide to Islam (2002), a book written by Serge Trifkovic critical of Islam.
CAIR sent a complaint letter sent to Boeing, as well as to the ambassadors of Muslim and Arab nations. The letter noted that Boeing announced the delivery of the first two Boeing 777 airplanes to the United Arab Emirates. [21] ( [22] (

Financing from Saudi Arabia

In 2003, Saudi Prince Alwaleed Aziz al Saud, an adherent of the Salafi denomination of Islam, donated $500,000 to CAIR to support a program that sends pro-Islam books and tapes to public libraries in the United States.

Muslim population statistics

The American Jewish Committee has questioned CAIR for its role in estimating the number of Muslims in America at about seven million. Other estimates of the Muslim population have ranged from 1.5 to 3.4 million.

In a November 24, 2001 article in the Washington Post, CAIR's methodology was described thus:

"Researchers called the nation's 1,209 known mosques and interviewed leaders at 416 of them. Respondents were asked to estimate the number of people involved in their mosque in any way. The average response was 1,625 participants. Multiplying that figure by the 1,209 mosques, lead researcher Ihsan Bagby determined there were two million 'mosqued Muslims' in the United States.
"Bagby, a professor of international relations at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., multiplied that number by three to account for people who identify themselves as Muslims but might not participate in mosque activities. He calls this multiplier an educated guess based on years of observation of the Islamic community.
"CAIR's Awad, asked why his group settled on an estimate of seven million in its press statements rather than Bagby's range of six million to seven million, said the organization had used six million for six years. "If we still used the number six," he said, "people would say, 'Haven't we grown?' " [23] (

A 2000 study by the University of Chicago incorporating prior national surveys found that America's Muslim population was 1.86 million.

Another survey of 50,000 people by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2001 concluded that the Muslim population in the United States was about 1.8 million.

CAIRís response to critics

CAIR has responded to critics who suggest that it is a front group for terrorism by denouncing their critics as mostly right-wing zealots who wish to discredit and disenfranchise the American-Muslim community. They point to numerous incidents in which American-Zionist organizations and individuals have targeted prominent American Muslim leaders and organizations with political attacks and accusations aimed at reducing American-Muslim involvement in the public policy process. [24] (

CAIR is particularly critical of Daniel Pipes, an historian, founder of the Middle East Forum, and CAIR critic, who has made statements that Muslim groups have viewed as insensitive and Islamophobic. [25] ( Pipes is known for applying the word "Islamist" to American Muslim organizations who assert that they are opposed to Islamism. [26] (

CAIR also frequently charges that its comments are misconstrued or misused by the media.

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