Of all the travesties of justice, the most egregious according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is the rush to judgment of Muslim terrorism suspects. So it’s ironic that the Muslim civil-rights group is leading the charge to convict in the court of public opinion the UCLA police officers who used a Taser to subdue an Iranian-American student in a campus library last week.
“Something went wrong and the community demands some answers,” said Affad Shaikh, civil rights coordinator for CAIR, at a protest on campus last Friday. Indeed, most of those protesting at the event—which was sponsored by student organizations including the Muslim Students Association and the National Iranian-American Council—had all but concluded that UCPD officers now pose the biggest threat to UCLA students. The crowd resoundingly shouted “No” when Samer Araabi, a representative on the Undergraduate Students Association, asked if they felt protected by the police.
In fact, the incident began because of a policy designed to protect students. Mostafa Tabatabainejad—a fourth-year Middle Eastern and North African studies and philosophy student who is, ironically, Baha'i and not Muslim—was asked by community service officers (CSO’s) to show his ID card as part of a standard procedure to ensure that all library patrons after 11 p.m. are authorized to be there. The CSO’s asked for assistance from UCPD officers when Tabatabainejad refused repeated requests to provide identification or to leave the library. UCLA Police Chief Karl Ross explained that the officers only used the Taser to incapacitate Tabatabainejad after he started urging others to join in his resistance and went limp while being escorted out.
Retired LAPD officer Clark Baker described the incident as having “all the hallmarks of a planned event—one that would generate hysteria among students and civil libertarians.” Tabatabainejad’s attorney Stephen Yagman seemed to confirm this view when he said his client did not present his ID card because he believed he was being singled out in an incident of racial profiling. This will presumably be argued in court, as Tabatabainejad plans to file a lawsuit against university police alleging "brutal excessive force" and false arrest. However, a UCLA freshman writing in to Michelle Malkin’s blog made clear that “it is absurd to believe that Mr. Tabatabainejad was targeted based on his race or ethnicity,” because CSO’s—who are students hired by UCPD to help with security—routinely perform random ID card checks.
CAIR seems to think the police officers—not Tabatabainejad—were the ones looking to make a scene that night. As a result, the organization has urged “state and national authorities, including the FBI” to investigate the incident. This is one of the rare times that CAIR has actually supported an FBI investigation. In spite of the group’s claims to want to support law enforcement, CAIR members have been convicted of supporting terrorism far more than they have ever helped in terrorism investigations. Warren Bamford, a representative of the FBI, speaking at a press conference this year said, “At this time, I don’t have any specific recollection of any times that [CAIR] has helped our investigations.”
CAIR prefers to question the legitimacy of any arrests of Muslim suspects. After the arrests last year of two Muslim men on gun charges following the FBI’s months-long surveillance of two Sacramento mosques, Basim Elkarra, executive director of the Sacramento branch of CAIR, said, “We’re interested to see to what extent they’re using informants, and whether there’s entrapment.” Elkarra’s suspicions can be explained by the fact that CAIR believes no valuable information on Islamic extremists can ever come from mosques or imams. When Stephen Tidwell, assistant director in charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, earlier this year assured Muslims that “we do not, we cannot, we do not” monitor Muslim students at UC-Irvine, CAIR viewed it as a victory. CAIR spokeswoman Sabiha Khan said, “Thankfully with improved training of the FBI we hear less and less of the questions about what mosque [Muslims] went to or what imam they liked to listen to.” One example of such training occurred in August when a Religious and Cultural Sensitivity Training Seminar about Islam and Muslims was conducted by CAIR at the FBI San Diego Field Office.
Because criticizing American policies—not the terrorists these policies are designed to stop—is what animates CAIR, it is not at all surprising that the group joined with the American Muslim Council and the American Muslim alliance in February 2003 to form a coalition to repeal or amend the Patriot Act. The anti-terrorism legislation has been used by groups like CAIR to portray Muslims as innocent victims whose civil liberties have been trampled on by the United States government.
Perhaps this helps explain why Mostafa Tabatabainejad chose to yell, “Here’s your Patriot Act!” while he was being removed from the UCLA library and shout, “Am I the only martyr?” when other students chose not to be a part of his “resistance.”
His choice of words is significant: Just as many Muslims view Palestinian suicide bombers as heroes fighting against Israeli oppression, CAIR has now found its own martyr to help shine light on the supposed injustices of America.
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