Emails Expose CAIR’s Ongoing Influence in San Diego Schools
San Diego’s school board continues to work with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and enact its recommended anti-bullying curriculum — despite a July school board vote withdrawing from a partnership with the Islamist group.
A motion for a preliminary injunction filed in Federal court on Tuesday seeks to put an end to the ongoing work between CAIR and San Diego schools.
The Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF) originally sued the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) last May on behalf of several San Diego parents, arguing that CAIR — as a religious organization — cannot steer public school curriculum and programming without violating the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause (separating religion and state) — not to mention California state law.
Those concerns led SDUSD attorneys to recommend breaking off an anti-bullying partnership with CAIR last July. But school district emails obtained by the FCDF as part of the litigation make it clear that CAIR’s curriculum and program recommendations remain in play.
“Despite public statements to the contrary, Defendants have strengthened their partnership with” CAIR, the motion filed on Tuesday said. The school district is “delegating government power to a religious organization, and spending taxpayer money to advance a sectarian agenda.”
The policy creates an unequal situation that makes it a “graver sin” to rip off a Muslim girl’s hijab than to knock off a Jewish boy’s kippah [skullcap], the motion said.
CAIR officials played a significant role in crafting the anti-bullying/anti-
“Defendants contend that Muslim students are feeling particularly vulnerable. Yet there is not a scintilla of evidence that ‘Islamophobia’ — that is the pure hatred of Muslim students — runs rampant in District schools,” the FCDF said in its motion. “Instead, Defendants have relied solely on specious student surveys and testimonials that CAIR had provided as part of its lobbying for the Initiative.”
SDUSD statistics explicitly mention that only two bullying incidents involving Muslim students were reported in 2015-16 — among the entire 130,000-student school district. By contrast, 11 of the 18 religious bullying cases that were reported targeted Jews. Three cases involved students whose religion was not specified in the incident reports.
The school district’s emails “reveal the shocking depth of CAIR’s infiltration into the second largest school district in California, and the willfully blind complicity of the district’s superintendent and school board,” said FCDF Executive Director Daniel Piedra.
School district spokesman Andrew Sharp did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
Last July, SDUSD officials voted to discontinue plans to establish a formal relationship with CAIR — under pressure from the FCDF’s lawsuit. But despite this vote, San Diego schools continue to implement the CAIR-influenced anti-bullying/anti-
For example, SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten invited members of CAIR’s Education Committee to meet with her and Sharp a day after the vote. The CAIR Education Committee included CAIR San Diego board member Lallia Allali, CAIR San Diego Executive Director Hanif Mohebi, Allali’s husband — CAIR California board member Taha Hassane, along with non-Muslim allies.
CAIR Education Committee leader Linda Williams told Marten in a July 28 email that the action steps for the SDUSD-Cair partnership enacted at the April 4 meeting were “still in effect.” Two weeks later, Sharp asked Williams to send him the “Text Kits and Resources to Address Islamophobia” that the committee put together. It included a list of books that Allali had recommended in the spring. Williams called it the “very beginnings of what could grow into a robust ‘Toolkit’ for Teachers, Counselors, and Administrators.”
“We are delighted that the Curriculum departments will be reviewing these resources for potential use in our District!” Williams wrote. “We are glad to support the District’s efforts in this way, and we look forward to further connections!”
Allali’s book list included:
· Does my Head Look Big in This?, which tells the story of a Muslim teenager who decides to wear a headscarf; and
· Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors, about Ramadan.
CAIR’s lobbied for a program targeting “Islamophobia” and the bullying of Muslims students at least as early as 2011, emails show.
Over time, CAIR officials became primary resources for San Diego school officials — and the two sides established close relationships. School district officials invited Hassane to present CAIR’s bullying report for school psychologists during a January 2017 conference at the suggestion of Muslim school psychologist Kamal Boulazreg. CAIR also repeatedly invited school officials, such as school board Vice President Kevin Beiser, to its banquets. School district officials recognized Mohebi and CAIR for their work in the community in November 2015.
FCDF complains that all of this is inappropriate — because CAIR’s mission is to promote Islam. CAIR’s religious mission was explained by its national Executive Director Nihad Awad, who also goes by the name Nehad Hammad, during testimony last year about a union organizing effort before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). CAIR is a religious ministry, he said, making it exempt from the NLRB’s jurisdiction.
Teaching Americans “about the Islamic faith is a religious obligation,” an NLRB summary of Awad’s testimony said. CAIR’s letterhead, Awad noted, includes the phrase, “In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,” which opens every chapter in the Quran.
CAIR, the FCDF motion said, “prioritizes public school districts as ground zero to advance its religious mission.” In seeking to win its case, the FCDF invoked a 1972 Supreme Court case, Lemon v. Kurtzman,which established a three-prong test that bars schools from helping or hindering religious practices.
“… [T]eachers may not give assignments or make comments that create the impression that the teacher, or the school at large, endorses religion or favors a particular religion over others,” a guide written by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State says.
But that’s what the San Diego School District is doing with the CAIR-designed anti-bullying program, FCDF argued. “Indeed, the Initiative sends a message to Plaintiffs — as nonadherents of Islam — that they are outsiders, not full members of the school community,” FCDF wrote in its motion.
For example, PowerPoint presentation used by the San Diego school board at its April 4 meeting expresses a desire to create “clubs at the secondary level to promote the American Muslim Culture.”
The FCDF also argues that Hassane’s and Mohebi’s documented ties to extremists make CAIR San Diego “divisive,” and that their anti-Israel and antisemitic biases could taint their curricular recommendations.
Hassane signed a pro-Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) declaration against Israel in August 2014. He also hosted Sheikh Main al-Qudah, an imam who held leadership positions in charities connected with terror financing, in December 2016 and in March 2016 at his mosque — the Islamic Center of San Diego (ICSD).
Allali likewise posted a notice of Al-Qudah’s visit to ICSD on her Facebook page in March 2016. Both of these actions took place when Hassane worked to influence school district officials.
Al-Qudah’s LinkedIn profile shows that he worked as director of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) in Jordan from 1994 until 1997. IIRO’s founder “provided donor funds directly to al Qaida,” the US Treasury Department said. IIRO representatives cooperated with the Al Qaeda terrorists in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. IIRO was also a major financial conduit for Saudi funding of Hamas, the New York Daily News reported in 1996. Intelligence agencies found that major IIRO financial transfers ended up in the hands of Hamas front groups on the West Bank.
Al-Qudah also served as general secretary of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) in 1999, a group that US authorities say has been involved in disseminating jihadi propaganda for decades. “WAMY has knowingly and intentionally used its international infrastructure as a tool for supporting the al Qaeda movement, on both the ideological and military fronts,” a 2017 lawsuit against the Saudi BinLadin Group and others claimed.
Furthermore, Al-Qudah wrote a 2011 fatwa for the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America (AMJA) that allowed for Quranically-mandated tithing called zakat to be used for “legitimate jihad activities.”
Both Hassane and Mohebi attended AMJA’s March 2016 conference outside of Chicago. At AMJA’s 2015 conference, Mohebi expressed his “love” for Sheikh Salah Al-Sawy, who wrote a 2009 fatwa sanctioning violent jihad against Israel on AMJA’s website. Hassane hosted Al-Sawy as a guest preacher at his mosque in late January 2014, referring to him in a January 16, 2014, Facebook post as “beloved.” Allali also promoted Al-Sawy’s visit on her Facebook page.
School districts should be cautious when choosing partners like CAIR, American Islamic Forum for Democracy founder Zuhdi Jasser told the Investigative Project on Terrorism.
“There is absolutely no honesty regarding how these groups that claim to be about preserving the Constitution and Muslim rights actually put out information and reports. … [The play] a very large role in the radicalization process,” Jasser said.