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August 22, 2021 12:00 pm

CAIR Lectures Media About Accurately Quoting Jihadists

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avatar by Steven Emerson


Taliban forces patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021.REUTERS/Stringer

On Monday, after Kabul fell, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said that it was “a great day for the Afghan people and the mujahideen. They have witnessed the fruits of their efforts and their sacrifices for 20 years. Thanks to God, the war is over in the country.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is going to have to give him a good talking-to.

In a news release issued Monday, CAIR advised politicians and journalists “Not to Engage in Anti-Muslim Tropes or ‘Misuse’ Islamic Terms When Commenting on Afghanistan.” Among those supposedly misused terms?


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A mujahidin is someone who wages jihad, so Naeem’s politically incorrect reference should draw a strong rebuke from CAIR.

But its release offers no judgment about the Taliban’s nomenclature, let alone its resurgence. It contained no expression of concern for the grim future facing Afghans who either don’t conform to the Taliban’s rigid rule or are perceived as enemies.

“Jihadist” is a fictional term, CAIR claims in the release. It helps to “misconstrue Islam as a political ideology. In recent years, we have seen the term ‘jihadist’ come to be used as if it means a person who kills people out of a religious motivation, but this is inaccurate.”

Not to these guys. Or these. Or this guy.

Al-Qaeda issued a declaration of jihad in 1996 and put it clearly in religious terms. “The young men returning to Allah realized that Islam is not just performing rituals but a complete system: Religion and government, worship and jihad [holy war], ethics and dealing with people, and the Koran and sword,” it said.

CAIR, therefore, seems to be advising elected officials and writers not to accurately quote sources if they conflict with its sanitized interpretations.

Selective Concern

Clearly, the organization is speaking to the wrong audience.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) caught CAIR ally Esam Omeish, a past president of the Muslim American Society and a board member at Virginia’s Islamist-dominated Dar al Hijrah mosque, praising Palestinians for knowing “that the jihad way is the way to liberate your land. … We are telling them that we are with you. We are supporting you. And we will do everything that we can, Inshallah [God willing], to help your cause.”

CAIR leader Nihad Awad, meanwhile, participated in a weekend-long meeting with Hamas members and supporters back in 1993, in which jihad was repeatedly mentioned. Participants were unaware that the FBI had bugged the hotel meeting room as part of an investigation into US-based Hamas aid and support.

At one point, Omar Ahmad — Awad’s co-founder at CAIR — asked the group about its goals. “Isn’t it the liberation of Palestine?” he asked. “Come on. How are you going to liberate Palestine?”

“Through jihad,” an unidentified man responds.

“Who is going to carry out jihad?” Ahmad asked, according to an FBI translation admitted into evidence in the resulting prosecution. “The Palestinians only are the ones who will go to jihad against a national occupation.”

According to the FBI, Awad was in the room.

The meeting involved a group called the Palestine Committee, created by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood to support Hamas both politically and financially. Internal records indicate CAIR was a Palestine Committee branch, and the FBI broke off non-investigative relations with the group in 2007, saying the freeze would last “until we can resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and HAMAS.”

The policy remains in place.

The Hamas charter explicitly links jihad and religion, saying, “Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.”

CAIR officials have been unwilling to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization, and sometimes react testily when asked about it.

And Sami Al-Arian, a convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad board member, is also on videotape calling for jihad in language strikingly similar to that of Hamas. “The Koran is our constitution,” he said. “Jihad is our path. … Victory to Islam. … Death to Israel. … Revolution … till the victory.”

Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s charter, which few people knew existed before the FBI found it in 1995 while executing search warrants on Al-Arian, contains 22 references to jihad. For example, “Jihad is the solution to liberate Palestine and topple the infidel regimes.”

CAIR has not publicly rebuked Al-Arian for falsely linking jihad to religion. Rather, it has vigorously defended Al-Arian for years, and even gave him and his family a “promoting justice” award.

Despite its allies’ language, CAIR’s release insists that “‘jihad’ does not mean ‘holy war.’ Literally, jihad means to ‘struggle,’ strive, and exert effort. It is a central and broad Islamic concept that includes struggle against evil inclinations within oneself, struggle to improve the quality of life in society, struggle in the battlefield for self-defense (e.g., having a standing army for national defense), or fighting against tyranny or oppression.”

We took note of this slippery slope of rationalization back in 2009. Violence is bad, the thinking goes, unless we agree with the grievances of those carrying it out. The 9/11 attacks were bad. But a Hamas bombing of a civilian target is “fighting against tyranny or oppression.”

Osama bin Laden thought the presence of US forces in Saudi Arabia amounted to “the occupation of the land of the two holiest sites” in Islam. He found a refuge in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and orchestrated the 9/11 attacks from there. Islamist theocrats helped religiously-motivated jihadis.

CAIR’s release indicates the organization would prefer you not know that.

In a separate statement, CAIR urged the United States to accept Afghan refugees. “The people of Afghanistan must now decide the future of that nation on their own, without foreign military interference,” said Executive Director Awad. “We hope and pray that the Afghan people will soon establish a representative government that reflects Afghanistan’s diversity and Islam’s teachings of justice, mercy, human rights, and fair treatment for all people, especially women, who have the God-given right to learn, travel, earn a living, and live in dignity.”

Very nice words for a press release. But putting it politely, it’s total garbage.

But it is very likely that some writers will buy CAIR’s self-serving spin and sanitize its language when referring to jihadist groups.

Steven Emerson is executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, the author of eight books on national security and terrorism, the producer of two documentaries, and the author of hundreds of articles in national and international publications.

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