It has become something of an annual tradition. Every year, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) releases a civil rights report that documents cases of anti-Muslim discrimination in America. Every year, CAIR reports an increase in the number of such cases. And every year, these claims are supported by questionable information and statistical manipulation.
Recently, however, the reports have taken on a new dimension. Instead of simply arguing that discrimination is on the rise, CAIR has sought to identify the Bush administration as the culprit in this trend. This year’s report, for example, related a 15% increase in hate crimes to, “the U.S. Government’s continuing reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11th.”
Vilifying the Bush administration has been CAIR’s modus operandi since the September 11th terrorist attacks. No aspect of the war on terror has escaped criticism by the Council’s media machine. The 2002 civil rights report, titled Stereotypes and Civil Liberties was CAIR’s first formal attempt to portray the backlash against Muslim Americans after September 11 as an outgrowth of policies that the administration established to bring terrorists and their financiers to justice.
Stereotypes and Civil Liberties followed the standard CAIR civil rights report blueprint. It documented hundreds of unsubstantiated claims of discrimination and harassment suffered by Muslims, grouping together the truly heinous with the outright ridiculous, and placing all of the blame on the Federal Government. Where the 2002 report differed from previous CAIR reports was a section titled, “September 11 Anti-Muslim Incidents,” which was confined to the time period immediately following the 2001 attacks. For statistical purposes, these 1,717 instances were excepted from the yearly total.
For such a large assertion, one might expect CAIR to present supporting evidence, but they did not. Although the number of “backlash incidents” in 2001 were more than three times higher than incidents during the rest of the year, not one account or example was given.
The introduction explained that a different collection methodology was applied to the post-September 11 backlash calculation, by which individual violations were counted instead of incidents. “Thus,” the introduction states, “a single report of hate violence and harassment may include more than one instance.” Without a shred of evidence, we will can know what liberties CAIR took in totaling singular “instances” in order to arrive at its massive total.
What is even more alarming than CAIR’s specious reasoning is its conclusion that the Bush Administration and its anti-terror policies are singularly responsible for the alleged 1,717 anti-Muslim incidents. For instance, the CAIR report, while initially praising the President’s efforts to verbally distinguish between ordinary Muslims and the September 11th attackers, also alleged that, “ since that initial period of support, a number of government policies have singled out American Muslim organizations and immigrants from Muslim countries.”
The suspect policies include the USA Patriot Act of 2001, the detention of illegal immigrants, the closure of Muslim charities suspected of raising funds and diverting them to terror organizations, raids on the homes and businesses of suspected terrorist supporters, and voluntary interviews with legal visa-holders. The reader should not be fooled into believing that CAIR is protesting these policies merely in the name of civil rights, for in the report, CAIR specifically defends several groups that have been targeted by government action.
For example, the report stated that the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) had its assets frozen in December of 2001 for its suspected support of the terrorist group Hamas and deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. In defense of the group, CAIR stated that, “HLF has insisted that its social and health services have been extended to assist Palestinian orphans, widows, and poor persons irrespective of political views.” CAIR made no mention of the investigation of the HLF that had been ongoing since 1996, nor of public statements by officials involved in the operation regarding the charity’s support of Hamas. HLF’s claim of innocence was enough to elicit CAIR’s condemnation of the administration’s actions and it even compelled CAIR to denounce the investigation as a religiously motivated act of discrimination. In January of 2003, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals ruled that the Treasury Department had acted appropriately and with “overwhelming evidence” in freezing the group’s assets. CAIR’s allegiances, it would seem, are misplaced.
What effect does this campaign of misinformation produce? By convincing moderate Muslims that they are being targeted unfairly by the Bush administration’s policies, CAIR incites fear among members of that demographic. If innocent Muslims are then convinced that they will be the target of government action, then they have no incentive to reject an extremist ideology that resists the government’s anti-terror policies. Not coincidentally, it is CAIR that provides this political outlet. This is the essence of CAIR’s strategy: shock moderate Muslims about the motivations of the U.S. Government, turn them into post-911 victims, and then recruit them as supporters for your political agenda when they are ripe for the taking.
Perhaps it would do us well to ask who CAIR seeks to reach with their civil rights reports. We can immediately rule out terrorists and those who illegally support terrorists in this country, for they are fully aware of their actions, and discrimination by the government is the least of their worries. We may also discount current officials and members of CAIR, for they are so devoted to the group’s anti-administration stance that the results revealed in the report are unlikely to do anything but further entrench their views. Finally, non-Muslim political sympathizers are certainly welcomed by CAIR, but there is little evidence in the report to suggest they are targeted directly.
CAIR’s target audience is the relatively apolitical, possibly even non-practicing Muslims and Arab-Americans who have given little thought to what effect the war on terror has on their everyday lives. This audience is immensely large. Between 2002 and 2003, CAIR fielded discrimination complaints from 602 individuals; .0086% of the 7 million Muslims that CAIR estimates live in America. This means that an overwhelming majority of Muslims (not to mention Arab-Americans) have not been affected negatively by the administration’s successful efforts so far to root out terror.
That the number of unnecessarily affected Muslims is so small is surely a sign of success in the war on terror and a testament to our national character. Individual acts of violence and harassment have been few and far between, and met with appropriate justice. To CAIR however, the 99.9% of unaffected Muslims represents fertile ground from which to seek support, and in order to do so, they must be instilled with the idea that have become innocent victims.
Any American Muslims who are truly worried about “guilt by association” (the title of the latest CAIR report) should take notice of some of CAIR’s most notable associations. For example, CAIR was formed in 1994 by two former officials of the Islamic Association for Palestine, a group acknowledged by former FBI counter-terrorism chief Oliver Revell as a front for the Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas. One of the original founders, Executive Director, Nihad Awad, has stated plainly, “I am in support of the Hamas movement,” and Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper has defended Saudi financial support of Palestinian suicide bombers.
Several CAIR officials have been arrested for their alleged support of terrorist activity within the United States. Former CAIR Civil Rights Coordinator Randall Todd “Ismail” Royer was recently arrested for his role in fighting with and recruiting for the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Toiba. Bassem M. Khafagi, arrested in January for his involvement with terrorist finance group the Islamic Association of North America, was a Community Affairs Director for CAIR at the time of his arrest. Finally, Ghassan Elashi, arrested in December of 2002 for dealing in the property of a designated terrorist, was a founder of the Holy Land Foundation and a member of the founding board of Directors of CAIR-Texas.
While violent attacks and individual discrimination against Muslims are very serious matters, CAIR’s civil rights reports have done more to incite hysteria among peaceful Muslims than address to the problems directly. Muslims who are not involved in criminal or terrorist activity should remain unfazed by CAIR’s disingenuous reporting and take careful note of its political motives. Those who do not, and subscribe unwittingly to CAIR’s political agenda will do so at the expense of the protection that the administration has sought to provide to all American citizens in the midst of a domestic threat unlike any we have faced before.’Evan McCormick is the Henry M. Jackson National Security Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC. He is a recent graduate of Boston University.