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CAIR’s Grievance Theater, the Flying Imams and 9/11 By: Patrick Poole
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, April 12, 2007

It’s a tale of two Novembers with the horror of September 11th sandwiched in between.

In November 2006, six imams on a US Airways Minneapolis to Phoenix flight begin engaging in bizarre behaviors eerily similar to those used by the 9/11 hijackers to takeover the planes used on that terrible day: shouting slogans in Arabic; leaving assigned seats to position themselves much like the 9/11 attackers; requesting seat belt extenders that they positioned on the floor, rather than used to secure themselves. Responding to the reasonable concerns of passengers and the flight crew, the imams were removed from the plane by authorities.


Seven years earlier in November 1999, two Saudi students on an America West flight from Phoenix to Columbus were detained after landing because they had made repeated attempts to enter the cockpit area of the plane during the flight.


In both cases, CAIR rose up to defend the offenders in question and engaged in their now standard grievance theater protest politics. In the most recent case, CAIR has tried to capitalize on the publicity surrounding the incident by backing the "Flying Imams" and supporting their lawsuit against the airlines and passengers for responding to their bizarre behavior. The lawsuit is being handled by a Muslim attorney associated with CAIR.


When it comes to the November 1999 incident, any mention of CAIR’s involvement or defense of the Saudi students has been scrubbed from the organization’s website. It’s no wonder, as the 9/11 Commission Report (page 521, footnote 60) explains that the FBI now considers the incident as a “dry run” for the 9/11 hijackings. And the two men involved? As the 9/11 Commission Report explains, Hamdan al-Shalawi was in Afghanistan in November 2000 training at an Al-Qaeda camp to launch “Khobar Tower”-type attacks against the US in Saudi Arabia, and Mohammad Al-Qadhaieen was arrested in June 2003 as a material witness in the 9/11 attacks. Both men were friends of Al-Qaeda recruiter, Zakaria Mustapha Soubra, who drove them to the airport that day in Qadhaieen’s car. Another friend of Shalawi is Ghassan al-Sharbi, another Al-Qaeda operative that would later be captured in Pakistan with high-level Al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida.


There is a connection between these two incidents, as the leader of the six “Flying Imams” this past November is none other than Omar Shahin, the former imam of the Islamic Center of Tucson, where the two Saudi students from the November 1999 incident attended. Counterterrorism expert Rita Katz told the Washington Post in September 2002 that the mosque served as “basically the first cell of Al-Qaeda in the United States; that is where it all started”. (Len Sherman’s Arizona Monthly November 2004 article, “Al Qaeda among Us”, provides greater detail about the connections between the Saudi pair involved in the November 1999 event and the Al-Qaeda cell that operated in Tucson and Phoenix.)


Their current silence and website purge notwithstanding, immediately after the November 1999 “dry run”, CAIR was not shy about publicly speaking on the incident. “It seems like they single out some individuals because of their name, the way they look or their national origin,” huffed current CAIR National Vice Chairman Ahmad Al-Akhras (who was then president of the CAIR Ohio chapter) in an interview with the Egyptian daily, Al-Ahram. That same article quoted Nihad Awad, Executive Director and Co-Founder of CAIR, who explained, “the hysteria around [the crash of] EgyptAir [Flight 990] has created a negative atmosphere that leads to such incidents.”


CAIR not only gave indirect support to the 9/11 “dry run” hijackers by launching an aggressive media defense and circulating their woeful tale of innocents victimized by the bigotry of non-Muslims, but as Katherine Kersten of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reminds us, in 2000 CAIR fronted a lawsuit for Shalawi and Qadhaieen against America West by hiring attorneys and calling for a boycott of the airline as a result of the incident. Again, two identical events eight years apart with CAIR playing the exact same role.


CAIR was unsuccessful in the lawsuit stemming from the November 1999 9/11 “dry run”, as the judge quickly dismissed the case, but they did succeed in creating an atmosphere of intimidation that was certainly aimed at stopping airline passengers from speaking up about suspicious behavior. Did CAIR’s campaign of intimidation silence any of the passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 11, American Airlines Flight 77, or United Airlines Flight 93 who might have witnessed suspicious behavior of the 9/11 hijackers that day? Since all the passengers of those flights were silenced forever, we will never know.


But the horrific consequences of their previous defense of the 9/11 “dry run” has not prevented CAIR from using the exact same tactics and rhetoric in the current “Flying Imams” case. As Janet Levy recently explained in an article here at FrontPage (“The Minneapolis Six Sabotage Airline Security”), the CAIR-backed lawsuit by the six imams is being used as a propaganda device to advance CAIR’s legislative agenda for the passage of a bill through Congress that would prevent authorities from acting on suspicious behavior, much like what was seen in the November 1999 and November 2006 incidents, as well as 9/11.


As their current protest politics in the “Flying Imams” case demonstrates, CAIR shows no remorse for their complicity in providing cover for the 9/11 “dry run” operatives, though the purge of their website of any mention of their participation was clearly an attempt to try to wipe the public record clean of their involvement. But in light of their past actions and with their pursuit of the current lawsuit, it seems fair to ask: will thousands more Americans need to be murdered before CAIR brings the curtain down on their grievance theater road show? Tragically, we might have the opportunity to find out.

Patrick Poole is a regular contributor to Frontpagemag.com and an anti-terrorism consultant to law enforcement and the military.

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