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August 16, 2022 10:58 am

The Loud Message From CAIR’s Relative Silence on the Rushdie Attack

avatar by Steven Emerson


Author Salman Rushdie is transported to a helicopter after he was stabbed on stage before his scheduled speech at the Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York, U.S., August 12, 2022, in this screengrab taken from a social media video. Photo: TWITTER @HoratioGates3 /via REUTERS

The news was so disturbing that it could not go without a comment from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): Auburn University’s men’s basketball team was about to embark on a 10-day trip to Israel. They’d play some games and hold clinics with Israeli and Palestinian children. Coach Bruce Pearl emphasized the historical places the team would visit, including “where Jesus was born.”

CAIR issued a statement saying the trip was a “propaganda junket … clearly designed to normalize Israeli apartheid and racial segregation,” and should be canceled.

But when a world-renowned author was attacked on stage by an apparent radical Shia Muslim — 33 years after the Shiite Iranian theocracy issued a fatwa calling for his murder — CAIR has had little to say.

Thankfully, author Salman Rushdie is “on the road to recovery,” his agent says, although he may suffer permanent injury.

Part of CAIR’s mission is “to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America,” its website says. That work apparently does not include speaking out against violence specifically inspired, and sometimes planned, by the Islamic Republic of Iran. CAIR couldn’t even go so far as to wish Rushdie a full and speedy recovery.

When asked for comment by a reporter last Friday, CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper did not even mention Rushdie’s name. Instead, he offered a generic statement, which he also posted on social media: “American Muslims, like all Americans, condemn any violence targeting anyone in our society,” said @CAIRNational‘s Ibrahim Hooper. “That goes without saying. We will have to monitor the situation and see what facts come to light.”

As of Monday, this was all CAIR had said about the Rushdie attack.

It’s a non-condemnation condemnation. Had a reporter not raised the issue, it’s unclear if CAIR would have said anything at all.

This stands in stark contrast to CAIR’s full-court press after Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi Arabian agents inside a Saudi consulate in Turkey. Khashoggi and CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad were friends and were working on a new political venture when Khashoggi was murdered.

But the killing had a shock value all of its own. A theocratic state hunted down and violently silenced a critic’s voice on foreign soil. CAIR loudly and repeatedly condemned the murder, and blamed Saudi Arabia for being responsible. It issued dozens of statements, news releases, and social media posts. It hosted a memorial service broadcast on C-SPAN. Khashoggi had asylum in the United States, Awad said at a news conference, “and he deserves American protection.” CAIR pushed for sanctions against Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman.

CAIR also pushed local officials to rename the street in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Khashoggi’s name, and then Awad spoke at the resulting renaming ceremony in June.

CAIR’s uncharacteristic reticence about the near-fatal attack on Rushdie is consistent with previous blasphemy-related violence, and with Iran’s repeated attempts to hunt down and murder its critics. It also has said nothing about Pakistan issuing a death sentence for blasphemy in 2019 to an English literature professor who allegedly advocated for secularism, thereby insulting Islam and its prophet Muhammad.

We could not find any CAIR statements on two separate Iranian plots targeting American citizens and dissident Masih Alinejad. New York police arrested a man last month after he was seen outside Alinejad’s Brooklyn home armed with an assault rifle. He is suspected of being an Iranian agent. A year earlier, Federal prosecutors charged four Iranian intelligence agents with plotting to kidnap Alinejad and bring her back to Iran. In CAIR’s eyes, this doesn’t rise to the level of an issue worth speaking out about.

In 2018, CAIR tried to smear Muslim reformer Zuhdi Jasser after he, on “international blasphemy day,” posted an image from the cartoon “Jesus and Mo,” which uses images of Jesus and Muhammad to mock religious dogma. CAIR’s post was labeled “Islamophobia Watch,” and called Jasser, a devout Muslim, an “Islamophobia Enabler.”

Now, a 24-year-old man who reportedly had direct contact with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has acted on one of the regime’s longest-standing fatwas against Rushdie. Leaders and media figures in Iran are ecstatic.

Iran’s willingness to plot attacks on dissidents and put bounties on the heads of artists it considers blasphemers is well established and unlikely to change. It has repeatedly plotted to kill people on US soil, and the best CAIR can muster is a generic “any violence targeting anyone in our society” is bad. No press release. No news conference. No mention of Rushdie’s name. Maybe CAIR was on the lookout for a pick-up basketball game in Tel Aviv.

Denouncing the Islamic Republic of Iran, especially when its edicts lead to public assassination attempts, shouldn’t be a difficult thing to do. But CAIR has chosen to sit this one out.

We hear them loud and clear.

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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