POLITICS: Dems still supporting Islamist groups that hate Israel
How can any elected official still support CAIR?
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has been problematic for years. The organization’s ties to fundamentalist group the Muslim Brotherhood date back to the 1990s and have been a frequent point of criticism by politicians for nearly three decades.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
For years, allegations of terrorist links have been shrugged off by CAIR as anti-Muslim bigotry — a rebut long accepted by Democrats who have publicly embraced CAIR and its “mission” to combat Islamophobia in America. In 2019, more than 120 members of Congress wrote adoring letters lavishing praise on CAIR in commemoration of the group’s 25th anniversary.
Two years later, those same elected officials were notably silent when NPR (not exactly a “far-right” news outlet) published a damning report chronicling a culture of sexual harassment, misogyny, and discrimination that spanned CAIR’s network of local chapters and extended all the way to their national headquarters on Capitol Hill.
CAIR Florida chapter leader Hassan Shibly, for instance, resigned in 2021 following allegations by his estranged wife of an “abusive relationship” that became “unbearable.” His departure “emboldened a slew of women to come forward with their own accusations of emotional abuse and sexual misconduct,” the NPR story stated.
CAIR executive director Nihad Awad was himself accused of sexual harassment in a 2021 lawsuit by a former employee who outlined the many ways CAIR and its leaders “hold themselves out publicly as a civil rights organization, while simultaneously engaging in egregious and rampant sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and religious discrimination.”
The lawsuit also accused CAIR of retaliating “against those who have either been victimized by such conduct or who have expressed concerns about it.”
Despite these controversies, not a single politician has condemned CAIR. Whatever happened to #MeToo?
Peel back the layers of the onion and things begin to stink even more.
In 2018, Latina theologian and interfaith activist Karen Leslie Hernandez was terminated from CAIR chapter leadership under the pretext that she was “not Muslim.” Court documents attest that the true reason for her dismissal was because Awad “was upset that [Hernandez] spoke openly online about being a survivor of domestic violence.”
Two years earlier, more than half of CAIR’s national office staff sought to unionize via the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Awad shut down those efforts, prompting SEIU Local 500 to issue a statement on Twitter saying it was “[d]isappointed that a civil rights group like CAIR is trying to stop its employees from even voting on having a union,” and later calling CAIR “hypocrites” for thwarting unionization.
Whither thee, Elizabeth Warren? The outspoken pro-union U.S. Senator didn’t utter a peep about CAIR’s union-busting, but did write a gushing letter to the organization in 2019, declaring she can “count on CAIR as a strong partner” in the fights for “civil rights, educating our fellow Americans, and empowering our communities.”
The lack of CAIR condemnation from politicians has been disappointing. But after Awad’s full-throated backing of Hamas and the brutal slaughter of more than 1,200 Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, silence has become unacceptable.
On Dec. 7, in a public forum, Awad declared he was “happy to see” the Oct. 7 terrorist massacre in Israel. The statement was so heartless that even the White House was compelled to publicly disavow CAIR. Strong stuff, especially after the Biden Administration had the gall to include CAIR in its National Strategy to Counter Anti-Semitism strategy only months prior.
At the time, President Biden’s US Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt defended the CAIR collaboration.
She dismissed its past indiscretions and stated that moving forward, groups such as CAIR will be asked to “acknowledge that you might have, or might not have, engaged in statements or declarations that were easily and rightfully considered to be antisemitic?”
Is now a good time to ask, Ambassador?
Soon after Awad’s hateful remarks last October, my group, the New Tolerance Campaign, deployed mobile billboards in Washington, DC naming and shaming the U.S. Senators on record for supporting CAIR. Three days later, the page on CAIR’s website listing their elected official supporters was quietly deleted.
That web page may be gone, but the names that used to populate it are not forgotten. Politicians who endorsed CAIR in the past have a duty to condemn the organization now. If they don’t, the press and the public have a responsibility to ask them why.
Given its sordid history, support for CAIR by politicians has always been baffling. Now, it’s simply inexcusable.
Gregory T. Angelo is the president of the New Tolerance Campaign.