As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the horrific 9/11 attacks, the pain endures for the survivors and for the family members of the nearly 3,000 people who perished that day. New York lost hundreds of first responders at the World Trade Center, and 2,500 U.S. soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. We should be honoring and commemorating all of them on Saturday.
But instead of focusing on the victims, or insuring that we never forget the Islamist terrorists who carried out this attack, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has been assiduously trying to frame the focus on Muslims being the victims.
CAIR has issued guidelines to the media and to school teachers on what to focus on this 20th anniversary. In one set of guidelines, called "Tips for Teaching Lesson Plans on September 11, 2001," nearly every "tip" ensures that students focus only on "Islamophobia" as the core lesson of 9/11. CAIR warns against using what it labels "inaccurate and inflammatory terms such as 'Islamic terrorists,' 'jihadists,' or 'radical Islamic terrorists'– which would be like warning against the use of the term "Nazis" after World War II as "inflammatory." Is CAIR against the use of the term "white supremacy"? Of course not. But if you cannot name your enemy, then it can't be your enemy. So what better way exists to intimidate educators or analysts by claiming they are "Islamophobic" or "promoting bullying" of Muslim students if they utter the terms "Islamic terrorist" and "jihadist," or if they focus on them as the perpetrators of the 9-11 attacks and so many other terrorist attacks.
CAIR's admonition against the use of the term "Islamic terrorists" also stems from CAIR's unstated ugly self-interest to sanitize the image of radical Islamist front groups, like CAIR itself, a Hamas front group which has in fact spouted reckless, unfounded and pro-Islamist conspiracy theories, not only about the 9-11 attacks but also about nearly all of the dozens and dozens of convictions of Islamic terrorists since the 9-11 attacks. And in this regard, CAIR's willing collaborators have included many in the mainstream media—from PBS to the Washington Post to the New York Times—which have dutifully carried out CAIR's dirty work in falsely claiming illegal convictions of some Islamic terrorists, despite the cases having been upheld on appeal, many all the way to the Supreme Court.
This strategy comes straight out of the Islamist playbook. From Hassan al Banna to Osama bin Laden to the current leaders of Iran, Hamas, Hizballah and now the Taliban have asserted they are the true victims. The Islamists have claimed their terrorist attacks are only responses to Western, Christian and Jewish aggression. And their front groups here in the West, like CAIR, have echoed the Islamist inversion of reality by sanitizing our lexicon, while claiming the same victimhood mentality and spinning conspiracy tales that have seeped into the American elite's bloodstream.
And in CAIR's tips for educators is another recommendation to "include information about the Muslim responses to the 9/11 attacks, such as the widespread condemnations of the attacks by American Muslim leaders." CAIR constantly claims it has condemned the 9-11 attacks, yet in the days and years following the 9/11 attacks, top CAIR officials maintained that Osama bin Laden and Islamist terrorists did NOT carry out the attacks. Rather, they promoted outrageous conspiracy theories which – of course – included accusing Israel.
It was 48 hours after the 9/11 attacks when American government officials began briefing the media and the public that the hijackers were Islamist terrorists belonging to bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist group. By September 13, the New York Times was already reporting on some of the dead Muslim hijackers linked to Osama bin Laden including Mohammed Atta.
Yet on Sept. 14, 2001, CAIR's New York chapter issued a statement, "Muslims Condemn Attacks Against Civilians: Forbidden in Islam." But it would not acknowledge, let alone condemn, the perpetrators. Rather it cast doubt on all the reports that bin Laden's terrorists were responsible.
"If such attacks were carried out by a Muslim – as some biased groups claim – then we, in the name of our religion, deny the act and incriminate the perpetrator." And for good measure, the statement included a typical blood libel against Israel, referring to the "tyrannical Jewish entity who raze the Palestinian homes to the ground, set fire to their tilt, kill them in cold-blood, and leave innocent orphans wailing behind."
On Oct. 5, 2001, three weeks after the 9/11 attacks when it was unambiguously known and clear to the world that bin Laden had carried out the attacks, CAIR-NY distributed a petition/letter to the New York Times entitled, "True Muslims Cannot Commit Suicide Nor Kill Innocent Civilians That Is Why Recognized Muslims Are Not Part Of The WTC Tragic Attack."
CAIR was protesting a Sept. 23 Times story about the 19 dead Muslim hijackers. Its letter claimed that "[t]wo of the 19 suspects: Abdulaziz Alomari and Saeed Alghamdi could not have been on the hijacked planes because they are still alive and are working in Saudi Arabia." This was an early and quickly refuted conspiracy theory, but CAIR officials jumped on it.
They also echoed claims that the ringleader, Mohammed Atta, was still alive. CAIR ended its letter with conspiratorial questions that alleged – and this is really an insult to the victims as well as to the American people – that unknown people were "impersonating" the terrorists.
"If three of the 19 suspected "hijackers" are still alive, who were the other 16?" CAIR wrote. "The important questions are: Who is impersonating these three Muslim Arabs? Why are Muslim Arabs been implicated in this terrorism? And, who could 'benefit' from this horrific tragedy?"
That was CAIR, the self-anointed "Muslim civil rights" group, which in fact would later be designated an un-indicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation's Hamas money laundering prosecution.
CAIR was created in 1994 by Awad and Omar Ahmad, who were listed as members of the Muslim Brotherhood's "Palestine Committee." Internal records seized by the FBI show that the Muslim Brotherhood established the committee to support Hamas "with what it needs of media, money, men and all of that." Other internal documents placed CAIR among the Palestine Committee's branches.
In 2001, CAIR's campaign to convince people that, despite the evidence, Islamists were not to blame for 9/11, continued.
At an Oct. 7, 2001 fundraising event in Virginia, guest speaker Ghazi Khankan, then the head of CAIR's New York chapter, repeated the totally discredited conspiracy theory about the hijackers being impersonators in language that echoed the Times letter:
"Why is it assumed that Muslims were behind the attack on Sept. 11? We know for sure at least three – Alghamdi, Alomari and Atta – whose name appear as part of the 19 hijackers ... are still alive in the Middle East," Khankan said. "The question is, who is impersonating these Muslim names? Who benefits from assuming that Muslims are behind this tragedy, and who benefits from this tragedy? I think the media should seriously go and investigate these three and find out if they are really the three hijackers, or someone else is impersonating them."
CAIR's spin continued even after bin Laden was seen in December 2001 on video released by the Pentagon. Bin Laden, an engineer, said even he was surprised to see the Twin Towers fall. "Due to my experience in this field," he said, "I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only. This is all that we had hoped for."
But seven months later, Awad gave an interview on July 1, 2002 to El Osboa, an Egyptian newspaper, in which he was asked if the Mossad was responsible for 9/11. Read the exchange, especially Awad's last response, which was translated from Arabic multiple times:
Q: "It is not ruled out that Mossad orchestrated the Sept. 11th events?
A: (Awad) It is not my specialty or job to speculate.
Q: My belief [that Israel is responsible for 9/11] is based on the fact that the beneficiary is the one that could be behind this operation, Israel, of course, benefited greatly from the events of September 11, as evidenced by its widespread exploitation.
A: (Awad): There are theories leading into this direction. During my meeting with President Bush, and my conversation with him after the September events last year, I told him that there are sayings in the region that think what happened cannot be done by Muslims or by Arabs due to the sophistication and intensity of planning and professionalism of execution...."
So instead of stating that bin Laden was responsible, Awad let stand the anti-Semitic conspiracy that Israel was. Awad also seems to make a racist comment about Arabs and Muslims that should not go unnoticed. "Muslims or Arabs" could not have carried out the attack, he said, "due to the sophistication and intensity of planning and professionalism of execution..."
More than a year later after this interview, on Sept. 7, 2003, Awad appeared at a CAIR fundraiser in New York that featured the former British journalist, Yvonne Ridley, who had been kidnapped by the Taliban and before being released, had converted to Islam.
Ridley quoted a recent conspiracy article in the left-wing Guardian that argued President Bush deliberately allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur.
The author "believe[d] it was the U.S. desire for full spectrum dominance that was built around securing by force a command over the oil supplies."
Ridley also claimed "that at least 11 countries gave the U.S. advance warning that something big and awful was going to happen."
Awad, the head of CAIR, spoke after Ridley. Instead of disavowing her dangerous nonsense, he tacitly endorsed her entire conspiracy: "Also, having listened to Sister Yvonne, there are many theories of course about 9/11. And there are many unanswered questions, and we always ask for answers, but also CAIR's position on the issue is it happened here in America, Muslims have condemned it without reservation..."
There were no serious unanswered questions in 2003 about who was responsible for the attack unless you were as consumed with radical Islamist conspiracies as Ridley or Ghazi Khankan.
But this kind of deflection was nothing new for Awad. He was a contributing editor for the Muslim World Monitor in 1993, when the World Trade Center was bombed for the first time. The Monitor was the English publication of the Islamic Association for Palestine, the Palestine Committee's propaganda arm.
In the June 4, 1993 edition, the main editorial questioned the arrests of those connected to the February 1993 WTC bombing. It claimed the bombing was not carried out by Islamist terrorists, and that it suspected that "the Mossad played a role in the blast."
After the suspects were convicted, the March 31, 1994 edition of the Monitor, with Awad still listed on the masthead as "contributing editor," called the verdicts a "travesty of justice.... [that] represents the degree to which anti-Muslim venom has penetrated society."
It claimed that both "the Mossad and Egyptian intelligence played a role in the explosion."
With that background, CAIR's legacy of embracing 9/11 conspiracies seems consistent.
Four years after the 9/11 attacks, CAIR officials were still promoting unfounded conspiracies. At an Aug. 18, 2005 event, CAIR's San Diego chapter hosted a local attorney named Randall Hamud. In the question and answer session that followed his comments, Hamud was asked about "enemies of Islam" fabricating the evidence of the 9/11 terrorists.
Q: "One strategy that enemies of Islam are successful at and that's putting Muslims on the defensive. There's still no evidence that Muslims carried out 9/11."
A: (Hamud): "Well, there is that point of view. I understand what you're saying. A lot of people don't think there were any Muslims involved in it at all. And maybe 100 years from now we'll find that out."
In further responses, Hamud let loose with more conspiratorial accusations.
"Maybe it was a plot against Islam. Who knows? Who knows? You actually had plenty of notice that this was going to be a problem and they did nothing about it until tragically when all those people had to die in 9/11. And we've all been paying a price since then ... It was a preventable moment in the sense that apparently they think Muslims did it. Apparently they're blaming Islam for it..."
CAIR has never renounced or apologized to the families of those killed for its promotion of outrageous 9-11 conspiracies that were designed to make the US or Israel responsible for the deaths of 3000 Americans on September 11, 2001 rather than the Islamic terrorists who carried out this mass murder. With the mainstream media willing to give CAIR not only a free pass on this claim, but also willing to endorse CAIR's inverted reality of victimhood, it's no wonder CAIR has gotten away, figuratively, with murder.
But in a larger sense, CAIR's actions are emblematic of the much larger problem affecting today's elite educational unions, media, publishing industry, academia, Hollywood and political elites which have, in the span of 20 years, embraced the Islamist inversion of reality. But the vast majority of Americans, including American Muslims, will never forget who the real victims were and who their murderers were as well.
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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