Readers of this site know we have more than a few lingering suspicions about the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Its roots in a Hamas-support network and its reflexive condemnation of virtually all terror-financing investigations prompt skepticism about the self-purported civil rights organization's true objectives.
One thing we never thought, though, is that these guys are stupid. So we're a little surprised that CAIR's "aw shucks, did we do something wrong?" act in the face on FBI freeze-out is treated credibly. To recap, FBI officials decided last summer to break off communication with CAIR. Evidence in the Hamas-support trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) showed CAIR's founders were active participants in early Hamas-related organizational meetings in the United States. Two CAIR founders, Nihad Awad and Omar Ahmad, are listed on this phone list of "Palestine Committee" members.
Transcripts from a secretly wiretapped 1993 meeting of Hamas supporters in Philadelphia indicate CAIR actually is an outgrowth of that effort. During testimony, FBI agent Lara Burns described CAIR as a front organization.
FBI officials haven't discussed the evidence or offered an explanation of their decision to break off communication with CAIR. Instead, they repeatedly have said that CAIR national leaders must address "certain issues" before access is restored.
CAIR officials say that FBI officials have failed to tell them what those issues are and, good gosh, they can't imagine what they could be. The latest example came Monday from Detroit News reporter Greg Krupa:
"Officials of CAIR, which has 35 field offices in 19 states, say they have not been informed of the concerns."
Krupa focuses on the Philadelphia meeting, saying FBI officials privately "say the FBI would be hard-pressed to explain why it would continue to engage as a partner an organization with two leaders who attended such a meeting."
This isn't that complicated. The Philadelphia meeting had one objective – to develop a strategy to undermine U.S.-led peace efforts that culminated in a historic White House lawn handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat. The men who met in Philadelphia didn't like it for two reasons; it empowered the secular Fatah movement over the Islamist Hamas, and it paved the way to a peaceful, two-state solution to the conflict. Read the transcripts and it is clear that lies and deception were at the heart of the opposition strategy and that Ahmad and Awad were in sync with the group.
That included talk from an unidentified speaker of forming "a new organization for activism which will be neutral because we are placed in a corner…It is known who we are."
Awad, Ahmad and others in Philadelphia were then a part of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), another leg of the Hamas support structure known as the Palestine Committee, and an organization which frequently sponsored rallies and fundraisers with Hamas officials and glorification for Hamas terrorists.
During the meeting, HLF Executive Director Shukri Abu Baker agreed with the concept of a new organization, summarizing "It will be made up of some of our people, our beloved ones, and let's not hoist a large Islamic flag and let's not be barbaric-talking. We will remain a front so that if the thing happens, we will benefit from the new beginnings instead of having all our organizations classified and exposed."
In his article, Krupa casts doubt on the connection between the new organization described by Abu Baker and CAIR, writing that the goal was "to establish a low-profile group, not readily identified with Muslims, which would work quietly to promote the concerns of Hamas in 1993."
This misses the point. It would be impossible any of the assembled 25 Muslim activists to create an entity "not readily identified with Muslims." The discussion was not about whether or not the "new organization" could be labeled as a Muslim group, it was about minimizing its "Islamist hue," something arguably achieved by emphasizing civil rights over the Palestinian cause as CAIR has done.
In a 2000 interview with The Link, Awad described how he and Ahmad left IAP and started CAIR:
"Omar suggested to me that we leave the IAP and concentrate on combating anti-Muslim discrimination nationwide. He proposed that I move to Washington, D.C., where any effective national effort would have to be based, while he tried to raise the seed money for the project."
In sum, Nihad Awad and Omar Ahmad used to lead the IAP, an overt supporter of Hamas. They went to Philadelphia, where two dozen Hamas supporters talked about ways to "derail" the Oslo Accords while not appearing to be terror supporters. Creation of a toned-down political arm was among the ideas generated. Less than a year later, Ahmad and Awad created CAIR.
Finally, in Krupa's article, he quotes CAIR-Michigan director Dawud Walid minimizing CAIR's work for the Palestinian cause:
"Probably not even 1 percent of CAIR's work in the past 15 years has been related to the grievances of Palestinians. This does not reflect the work of an alleged front group for people in the Gaza Strip."
CAIR's work can't be quantified. But it has gone to bat for Mousa Abu Marzook, the Hamas deputy political director, after U.S. authorities arrested him in 1995. Its 1996 report "The Status of Muslim Civil Rights in the United States" included Marzook's arrest among its list of incidents of anti-Muslim bias and violence. It has spent years defending Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative Sami Al-Arian, hosting fundraisers for his legal defense and sponsoring screenings of a sympathetic documentary. Earlier this year, CAIR seemed to be doing little else but organizing demonstrations against Israel's effort to defang Hamas in Gaza while Awad went to the National Press Club to issue demands that U.S. policy change.
Sounds like a continuation of the Philadelphia plan, doesn't it?