News broke Thursday that Republican presidential nominee John McCain had rejected the support and endorsement of Texas-based pastor John Hagee when controversial remarks Hagee made about Hitler and the Holocaust came to light. In a sermon from the late 1990s circulating on the Internet, Hagee used a biblical verse to argue that the Holocaust was God's will, paving the way for the creation of Israel as a homeland for the Jews.
Senator McCain's move comes on the heels of the controversy surrounding his presumed Democratic opponent, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, and his relationship with Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Several of Wright's sermons, seen by many as anti-American and anti-Israel, circulated on YouTube and the cable news networks for weeks, eventually leading Obama to distance himself from Wright.
In a Democratic presidential debate, Obama's opponent, New York Senator Hillary Clinton, famously asked Obama to "reject and renounce" Rev. Wright. In fact, the phrase "reject and renounce" has become part of the political landscape, as opponents seek to find any damning associations to tar their opponents.
Ever the opportunist, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has jumped into the fray, issuing a press release Thursday calling on McCain to "Renounce Second Bigoted Pastor." The second pastor is Rod Parsley of Ohio, who has said that America's role as a nation is to destroy Islam (word today is that McCain is also distancing his campaign from Parsley) The release included these statements from CAIR's National Legislative Director Corey Saylor:
"Senator McCain said he chose to reject Reverend Hagee's support after learning some of the hateful comments he has made. With similar disturbing statements by Reverend Parsley circulating widely on the Internet, it's time for the senator to renounce the endorsement of this second bigoted pastor.
"Millions of American Muslims may feel unsafe knowing that a candidate for the highest office in the country would embrace a man who demonizes them as "spiritually evil" and believes our country was founded, in part, to destroy their faith.
And in possibly the most unintentionally ironic moments in CAIR's history, Saylor continued:
"In the interest of best positioning any future administration to defeat the narrative of anti-American extremists, we call on Senator McCain to unequivocally distance himself from Pastor Rod Parsley."
Long time CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper echoed Saylor's call on CNN, stating:
It was shocking to hear that Senator McCain would associate himself with someone who holds such bigoted views against Muslims and Islam.
Leaving aside for the moment Hooper's hypocritical smear of "guilt by association" (a frequent charge leveled by CAIR officials against its critics), what is not shocking is CAIR's ties to, and embrace of, controversial and hateful Muslim clerics.
Most notably, CAIR has defended leading Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Qaradawi is banned from traveling both to the United States and the United Kingdom because of the many controversial, pro-terrorism, pro-suicide bombing remarks he has made.
Qaradawi issued a fatwa in 2003 stating, "Those killed fighting the American forces are martyrs given their good intentions since they consider these invading troops an enemy within their territories but without their will," and Qaradawi also stated, "Although they are seen by some as being wrong, those defending against attempts to control Islamic countries have the intention of Jihad and bear a spirit of the defense of their homeland."
Furthermore, Qaradawi has criticized various Muslim clerics who speak out against suicide bombings, stating, "I am astonished that some sheikhs deliver fatwas that betray the mujahideen, instead of supporting them and urging them to sacrifice and martyrdom." On a ruling on the subject issued by the imam of Mecca's Grand Mosque, al-Qaradawi said, "It is unfortunate to hear that the grand imam has said it was not permissible to kill civilians in any country or state, even in Israel." This shows that Qaradawi is more extreme than a top Wahhabi cleric, yet that has not stopped CAIR from defending him wholeheartedly.
And what does CAIR have to say about Qaradawi? On July 26, 2005, in an interview on MSNBC, CAIR's legal director Arsalan Iftikhar said:
For example, if you look at Sheik Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the - - one of the most famous Muslim scholars in Cairo, Egypt, he has said unequivocally that people who commit suicide bombings and -- and acts of terror are completely outside the bounds of Islam.
A famous scholar who is against suicide bombings. Right. At a 2002 CAIR fundraiser in Southern California, local CAIR executive director Hussam Ayloush referred to Qaradawi in the same vein, invoking him as a "scholar" who has approved Islamic charitable donations for CAIR:
Several people were asking about the eligibility claim for CAIR. And according to many scholars including Yusuf Qaradawi, basically this is one of the venues of Zakat for your money as vis a vis basically educating about Islam in America and the West.
And Qaradawi's extremism doesn't end there. The Associated Press quoted Qaradawi as writing, "There should be no dialogue with these people [Israelis] except with swords." And, commenting on suicide bombings in April 2001, Qaradawi stated, "They are not suicide operations…These are heroic martyrdom operations." In 2004, regarding the permissibility of female suicide bombers, al-Qaradawi encouraged such acts, stating, "The martyr operations is [sic] the greatest of all sorts of Jihad in the Cause of Allah."
On his program on the Al-Jazeera satellite network, Qaradawi endorsed the practice of wife-beating, saying "There is a woman who cannot agree to being beaten, and sees this as humiliation, while some women enjoy the beating and for them, only beating to cause them sorrow is suitable…" (For much more on Qaradawi, read our profile).
And Qaradawi is not the only extremist cleric embraced by CAIR generally, and Ayloush specifically. At a 1998 event co-sponsored by CAIR in Brooklyn, radical Hamas-linked cleric Wagdy Ghoneim told the audience in Arabic, "The Jews distort words from their meanings. . . . They killed the prophets and worshipped idols. . . . Allah says he who equips a warrior of Jihad is like the one who makes Jihad himself." Ghoneim then led the crowd in an anti-Semitic song with the lyrics:
No to the Jews
Descendants of the Apes
Years later, when Ghoneim avoided forced deportation from the United States by volunteering to leave the country, Ayloush, who had vigorously championed Ghoneim's immigration battle, referred to the situation as a "dent in our civil rights struggle."
CAIR's hypocrisy on this matter could not be more evident. And regardless of what Senators McCain and Obama do or say with respect to their spiritual advisors, the last organization that should be taken seriously on this matter is CAIR. That point was not lost on CNN's Lou Dobbs, who had a pointed challenge for the network reporter on the story:
My question is why would we even be quoting them? They're not exactly the pristine representatives of the Muslim people in this country, are they?
Unless and until CAIR rejects and renounces its own embrace of vile, pro-terrorism and hateful brand of preachers, no one should treat CAIR as a legitimate "civil rights" organization, and CAIR should continue to be viewed for what it is, a Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas front group, currently an un-indicted co-conspirator in a terrorism financing case.