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October 5, 2018 8:39 am

Those Who Dish Out Criticism Should Be Able to Take It

avatar by John Rossomando

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Linda Sarsour (right). Photo: Screenshot.

On Monday, a staffer at the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) made a mistake on social media regarding the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). When CAIR pointed out the mistake, the staffer acknowledged the error and deleted the inaccurate post.

But that wasn’t good enough. CAIR likened his position — working for Investigative Project on Terrorism Executive Director Steven Emerson — to being “‘Chief Googler’ for David Duke.”

The episode is telling, and not in any manner that CAIR thinks it is. For starters, it shows how CAIR is quick to point out other people’s mistakes, but never acknowledges its own failings. And it shows that CAIR officials lack any sense of irony or self-awareness.

CAIR likened Emerson to the former Ku Klux Klan leader and renowned hater 24 hours after CAIR’s Missouri chapter co-sponsored a conference with a group called American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), which supports Hamas and doesn’t simply oppose Israeli policies, but tries to undermine Israel’s legitimacy.

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The gathering featured a speech by Linda Sarsour. Just a week earlier, the Investigative Project on Terrorism exposed Sarsour’s antisemitic tirade in which she blamed Jews for police shootings of unarmed black people in the United States. According to Sarsour, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) “takes police officers from America, funds their trips, takes them to Israel so they can be trained by the Israeli police and military, and then they come back here and do what? Stop and frisk, killing unarmed black people across the country.”

The clip can be heard here, at the IPT website.

Additionally, Sarsour rejects sovereignty for the Jewish people, rejects political support from Zionists, and pushes a conspiracy theory that can only foster hatred toward Jews. That sounds an awful lot like David Duke. Yet, she still is welcomed and honored at CAIR events, including fundraisers.

And Sarsour’s not the only one. CAIR will host its national fundraising banquet on October 20 outside of Washington, DC. Speakers will include Yasir Qadhi, a religious leader who advocates for Saudi Arabian-styled restrictions on Muslim women’s lives and has spoken against capitalism and democracy, and Hatem Bazian, a leader of the BDS campaign that aims to isolate Israel economically and politically.

CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad, meanwhile, embraces Turkey’s authoritarian Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has jailed thousands of journalists and dissidents, and allowed Turkey to serve as a base for exiled Hamas leaders.

Other Muslim groups have taken CAIR to task for blindly supporting Erdogan. But Erdogan’s support for Hamas is relevant.

Earlier this week, Zuhdi Jasser, the founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), reposted an irreverent comic strip called “Jesus and Mo” as part of “Blasphemy Day.” The comic casts Jesus and Muhammad in an “Odd Couple” roommate arrangement in a series that mocks religion.

CAIR’s national Twitter account used Jasser’s post to smear him — a Muslim who advocates for reform of his faith — as an “Islamophobia enabler,” and later claimed that reposting a Jesus and Mo comic shows that Jasser and AIFD don’t “have the same respect for our beloved Prophets.”

Maajid Nawaz, a former radical and a fellow advocate for reform within Islam, suggested on Wednesday morning that CAIR’s rhetoric could lead radical Muslims to target Jasser.

“There’s nothing wrong with criticizing Islam,” Nawaz wrote, “especially (but not exclusively) if done by Muslims. … He’s defending satire here, not criticizing it himself. That word Islamophobia is a total misnomer, for this very reason.”

CAIR, meanwhile, grew reticent when the AIFD challenged it to condemn Hamas or acknowledge that Hamas is a terrorist organization.

It’s a question that CAIR officials have ducked as far back as 2001. Sometimes they try to talk around the question. Other times, they try to use indignation to steamroll the questioner. Bullying is easy. Acknowledging skeletons in their own closet is a bit more difficult. And CAIR has plenty of skeletons.

CAIR has never directly addressed its roots in a Muslim Brotherhood network in the United States called the Palestine Committee. Evidence seized by the FBI show that the committee was charged with helping Hamas politically and financially. And a meeting agenda dated within weeks of CAIR’s 1994 formation places it under the committee’s umbrella. Awad, the only executive director CAIR has ever had, was listed in a Palestine Committee telephone list.

The evidence was so substantial that it prompted the FBI to prohibit agents from working with CAIR outside of formal investigations “until we can resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and Hamas.” That policy remains in effect a decade later, so the questions have either not been resolved or have answers CAIR doesn’t want you to consider.

CAIR has faced few other consequences for the radical and often bigoted messages spewed by its officials throughout the country. Reporters rarely ask about them, and give CAIR kid-gloves treatment.

Despite that, CAIR’s first reaction is to go for the smear. Oppose Islamism and repost a provocative cartoon? You’re an Islamophobe. Make an incorrect assertion, which is acknowledged and corrected? Invoke David Duke.

And in those rare cases in which you are asked about your record? Deflect and attack.

It does tell people a lot about CAIR.

John Rossomando is a senior analyst at the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

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