CAIR is the Problem, Not Islamophobia
Taking time off from the crucifixions and decapitations to burn a Yazidi woman to death for refusing to perform a vile sex act, Islamic State’s home-field hard jihad is alive and well, while back at the University of California, Berkeley, the more palatable soft jihad is also alive and well.
The sixth annual Islamophobia conference was underway in a lecture hall sparsely populated by a complement of the usual suspects, women in hijabs and panel presenters working diligently to turn Islamophobia into another respected academic field based on oppression studies.
The gadfly of the movement is Berkeley instructor Hatem Bazian, a self-proclaimed authority on the subject. When not justifying Islamist violence in the streets of Europe as a response to Islamophobia or calling for an American Intifada from the streets of San Francisco, Bazian can be heard rattling off the names of Jewish donors to the Berkeley campus to show the alleged disproportionate influence of Jews in campus affairs. Bazian maintains a studied silence about the Saudi largess that sustains his own department of Near Eastern studies.
But then Bazian has seldom let facts intrude on an emotional appeal grounded in prejudice. Despite the fanfare about the supposed legitimacy of Islamic studies in the Oppression department, neither the presence of Islamophobia courses nor the data on ant-Islamic hate crimes seems to bear that out.
There is the inconvenient reality of FBI crime statistics. Of religious-oriented hate crimes, 62 percent are directed against Jews, and 12 percent — a distant second — are directed against Muslims. If one were to make the inferential leap that the same groups that target Jews in Europe target them in America and the anti-Semitism evident on campus does not stop at the campus gate, then it is clear who is responsible for a large portion of that anti-Semitism.
As Bazian prepares to run off to an Islamophobic conference in Paris, industry leader CAIR (Council of American Islamic Relations) launched a fundraising letter to rouse the faithful and the naïve to part with their money to stop the “threat” of Islamophobia.
Poster girl for the CAIR fundraising letter is Nina Rosenwald, a well-known philanthropist and granddaughter of Julius Rosenwald, the famed Chicago patron of African-American causes, who left half of his $68,000,000 fortune to African-American charities and partnered with Booker T. Washington to create Tuskegee University.
CAIR’s dispute with Rosenwald centers on her support for pro-Israel causes. To be pro-Israel is not to be anti-Muslim, as CAIR would have its donors believe. Among other charitable work, Rosenwald is actively involved in the American Friends of the Open University of Israel, a distance-learning program that provides access to higher education to all residents of Israel, regardless of faith or ethnicity.
If anything, it might be CAIR that should account for its activities. Its connections to Hamas, a listed terrorist group, do not make for credibility and are the source for the FBI ceasing connections with the self-proclaimed civil liberties group.
Recently, CAIR has been in the news opposing the showing of the biopic “American Sniper,” joining a chorus of Islamic campus voices that label it anti-Muslim. But, it would seem that either CAIR’s sensitivities are overdeveloped, or American servicemen like Sniper’s Chris Kyle are not deserving of heroic status.
While the two issues are not mutually exclusive, CAIR’s San Francisco chapter executive-director Zahra Billoo at least made it clear that she struggles each Memorial Day whether to honor American soldiers who died in wars that she considers unjust.
That kind of statement, like the outrage against the biopic of an American hero who kept some Muslims safe from other Muslims who wanted to kill them, undermines CAIR’s goal of making Islam a positive force in American life. It does far more harm to the status of Islam in America than the political positions, real or imaginary, of any group that Nina Rosenwald might fund.
Hatem Bazian does not speak for those Muslim students seeking to integrate into the fabric of American pluralistic society, who are not about exploiting a faux Islamophobia, but about getting a degree and contributing to the greater good. CAIR’s Zahra Billoo’s Memorial Day reflections do not honor the memory of those Muslim-American soldiers who died alongside their comrades in America’s wars.
The Bazians and Billoos notwithstanding, those of us who have taught in universities know that there are thousands of Muslim students who would never attend a Bazian political circus with its message of victimhood. Equally, the majority of Muslims in our community are concerned more about their future as Americans than about supporting Middle East terrorist groups.
Perhaps CAIR might consider showcasing some of these people rather than maligning a third-generation philanthropist as an Islamophobe simply because she disagrees with CAIR’s policies in the Middle East.
This is America. We can agree to disagree. CAIR is free to attack our heroes and our symbols, just as we are free to call them out for it. But if CAIR wants Americans to see Islam as a positive force in American life, it might want to rethink its message.
Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a senior fellow with the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought. Follow @salomoncenter. This article was originally published by The Hill.