When a golfer has a putt of a foot or less, it's considered can't miss - a "gimme" - in the parlance of the game.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations took a gimme Wednesday when it issued a statement condemning remarks from Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. In an 11-minute video, Zawahiri slurs President-Elect Barack Obama as a "House Negro."
CAIR's statement was out within hours, saying the organization "condemned threatening rhetoric and racial slurs contained in a new video by Ayman al-Zawahri and said Al-Qaeda's second-in-command does not speak for Muslims in this country or worldwide."
The statement continued:
"As Muslims and as Americans, we will never let terrorist groups or terror leaders falsely claim to represent us or our faith. The legitimate grievances of Muslims in many areas of the world can never serve as an excuse or a justification for attacks on civilian populations. We once again repudiate Al-Qaida's actions, rhetoric and worldview and re-state our condemnation of all forms of terrorism and religious extremism."
No reasonable person would quarrel with that. But it's not exactly going out on a limb. And it raises some key questions that are central to understanding what CAIR stands for.
For starters, just what are the "legitimate grievances" referenced in the release? How many of those grievances conflict with U.S. policies in Iran, Lebanon and Israel, including those that are expected to be continued by the President-elect?
And, if CAIR is so eager to condemn a statement from Al Qaeda, what meaning should be drawn from its stubborn refusal to condemn terrorism from the likes of Hizballah and Hamas or fatwas sanctioning attacks on American soldiers from a Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader?
CAIR has yet to utter a critical word about Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who has called suicide bombings "heroic martyrdom operations."
He issued a fatwa stating that Muslims killed fighting American forces in Iraq are martyrs. "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."
Britain won't let Qaradawi into the country due to his extremist rhetoric. But to CAIR officials, he is a scholar. That's what Hussam Ayloush said at a 2002 Orange County CAIR fundraiser:
"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 (charity) for your money as vis a vis basically educating about Islam in America and the West."
Over the years, CAIR officials have established a consistent pattern of providing squirrelly answers when challenged to condemn terrorist groups other than Al Qaeda:
In a 2002 interview with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said questions about his organization's opinions about Hamas and Hizballah were part of "a game" pushed by "the extremist wing of the pro-Israel lobby." Hooper made it clear he wasn't playing: "We're not in the business of condemning."
Asked in a May 27, 2003 deposition, "Do you support Hamas?" CAIR co-founder and Chairman Emeritus Omar Ahmad answered, "It depends. Qualify ‘support.'" Asked whether he had "ever taken a position with respect to… [Hamas'] ‘martyrdom attacks.'" Ahmad responded, "No."
In 2005, then-CAIR Tampa spokesman Ahmed Bedier was asked about his organization's position toward the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. "We haven't published one," he said.
This past August, CAIR spokesman Corey Saylor was pressed by David Lee Miller of Fox News to condemn Hamas and Hizballah. He wouldn't:
Saylor: "I'm telling you in a very clear fashion – CAIR condemns terrorist acts, whoever commits them, wherever they commit them, whenever they commit them."
Miller: "That's not the same thing as saying you condemn Hamas and you condemn Hizballah."
Saylor: "Well I recognize that you don't like my answer to the question, but that's the answer to the question."
Miller: "It's not no, it's not whether I like it or dislike it. I was asking whether or not you can sit here now and say- CAIR condemns Hamas or Hezbollah. If you don't want to, just say that. If that is a position your group doesn't take, I certainly accept that. I just want to understand what your answer is."
Saylor: "The position that my group takes is that we condemn terrorism on a consistent, persistent basis, wherever it happens, whenever it happens."
The record makes it clear that this is not the case. CAIR makes sweeping statements about condemning the deaths of innocent civilians, but does not define what it considers innocent. It's a tone set from the top, as evidence from the Hamas-support trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) shows.
Exhibits in evidence show CAIR is listed among members of the Palestine Committee, a group created by the Muslim Brotherhood to help Hamas. Omar Ahmad and fellow CAIR founder and Executive Director Nihad Awad appear as numbers 25 and 32 in this Palestine Committee telephone list. Ahmad is identified by his pseudonym of "Omar Yehya."
Awad publicly stated his support for Hamas over the secular PLO in 1994, six months after the Oslo Accords made the PLO the governing party in the new Palestinian Authority. His endorsement also came after he and Ahmad participated in a secret meeting of Hamas supporters in Philadelphia called to discuss ways to derail the peace initiative.
The Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel through terrorism and other violence. It also rejects out of hand any peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At a rally in New York six years later, Awad said "Our final destination is Palestine. They [the Jews] have been saying ‘next year to Jerusalem,' we say ‘next year to all Palestine.'
Consistent with that is Omar Ahmad's declaration during the Philadelphia meeting that the group's goal had to be kept secret from Americans:
"We've always demanded the 1948 territories," he said.
"Yes," replied an unidentified speaker. "But we don't say that publicly. You cannot say that publicly, in front of the Americans."
"No," Ahmad agreed, "We didn't say that to the Americans."
As noted, Ahmad and Awad remain prominent voices in CAIR leadership. So kudos to CAIR for condemning violence and offensive statements by Al Qaeda. Stretch that moral stand to other terrorist groups and people might take notice.