Rubinstein: Thanks, Jamie. It is a real pleasure to be here.
FP: First, tell us briefly what this libel suit was about.
Rubinstein: CAIR filed suit against Andrew Whitehead, claiming Mr. Whitehead’s statements on the Anti-CAIR website (www.anti-cair-net.org) were false and defamatory. The main statements were that CAIR is a terrorist supporting front organization, that CAIR was founded by Hamas supporters seeking to overthrow Constitutional government in the United States and replace it with an Islamist theocracy, and that CAIR receives funding from Islamic terrorist supporting countries. In other words, this case was about CAIR’s connections to and support for radical Islam.
FP: CAIR clearly had something to hide by not wanting to open up its records right?
Rubinstein: Well, I think that this is one conclusion that could be fairly drawn. It would be logical to assume CAIR did not want to expose its finances, its connections to foreign interests, and possibly the beliefs and intentions of its key leadership to legal process. My guess, based on the information we obtained during this case from a variety of sources, is that CAIR may have been most concerned about protecting its funding sources and its foreign backers. In truth, its leadership has been pretty open about ideology and goals.
FP: Tell us some people that have been found to be connected to CAIR.
Rubinstein: As stated in papers filed with the court, CAIR has been connected to the Islamic Association of Palestine (which has been held civilly liable for the Hamas murder of an American teenager), convicted Hamas financier Ghashan Elashi, Saudi interests, and radical groups, among others. The court papers state:
*CAIR is connected to Musa Abu Marzook ("Marzook"), a key Hamas operative. Marzook was named a terrorist and deported from the United States. On May 10, 1996, CAIR's Omar Awad organized a press conference to support Marzook at which Awad said, "[T]he arrest, detention and extradition is politically motivated...[and] this campaign has been orchestrated to serve as a wedge between America and Islamic countries." In June 1996, CAIR signed an open letter to then Secretary of State Warren Christopher that railed against “the injustice that has prevailed Dr. Marzook" and alleged that “our judicial system has been kidnapped by Israeli interests."
*CAIR is connected to Ghassan Elashi, a founder both of CAIR’s Austin, Texas, chapter and the notorious Holy Land Foundation (Hamas’ U.S.-based fundraising front), was convicted in July 2004 of having illegally shipped computers to Libya and Syria. He was convicted in April 2005 for conspiracy and money laundering with a known terrorist. Elashi has also been charged with providing more than $12.4 million to Hamas through HLF. Before 9/11, CAIR issued an e-mail “alert” stating the federal action against HLF and its principals was part of an “anti-Muslim witch hunt” promoted by “the pro-Israel lobby in America." After 9/11, CAIR used its website to knowingly funnel money, under false pretenses, to Elashi’s Holy Land Foundation.
*CAIR is connected to a variety of foreign funding sources, primarily Saudis. For example, a press release from the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington states that in August 1999, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) – functionally controlled by the Saudi government – gave CAIR $250,000 to help purchase its Washington, D.C., headquarters, which was acquired through an unusual lease-purchase transaction with the United Bank of Kuwait. In September 2002, CAIR bought out the Kuwaiti bank with funds from the Al-Maktoum Foundation, based in Dubai. The markings on the deed indicate that the foundation provided “purchase money to the extent of $978,031.34” to CAIR, or roughly one-third the value of the property. CAIR also received $500,000 from Saudi Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal to distribute Islamist literature throughout the United States. The centerpiece of the distribution was an English version of the Koran that had been banned by the Los Angeles School District because it was, as one Moslem scholar put it, “a polemic against the Jews.” A Senate Judiciary subcommittee report noted “Saudi Arabia’s long history of sympathy, coordination and support for terrorist groups” and found “CAIR receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from Saudi individuals and organizations.”
*CAIR is connected to the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). In December 1999, WAMY announced at a press conference in Saudi Arabia that it “was extending both moral and financial support to CAIR.” WAMY also agreed to “introduce CAIR to Saudi philanthropists and recommend their financial support for the headquarters project.” In 2002, CAIR and WAMY announced, again from Saudi Arabia, their cooperation on a $1 million public relations campaign. At that time, and to this day, WAMY, and its leader Sheikh Saleh Al-Sheikh, the Saudi minister of Islamic affairs, have been linked to terror. Both Indian officials and the Philippine military have cited WAMY for funding terrorist groups and militant Islamists. Osama Bin-Laden’s brother was WAMY’s treasurer. The Saudi Gazette, which reported the story, said that Awad “had already met leading Saudi businessmen” in order to “brief them about the projects and raise funds.”
*CAIR is connected to the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), which gave CAIR $14,000 in 2003. IIIT is part of an interwoven group of terror-financing conduits that sent money to, among others, Islamic Jihad leader Sami Al-Arian.
*CAIR is connected to the IAP, a radical Islamic organization that preached the inevitability of conflict between “divinely inspired” Islamic civilization and the materialistic, God-less West. Its website stated there “is a civilizational conflict waged between, on the one land (sic) Islamic civilization with its divinely inspired laws and mission to create on this earth the society of justice and freedom which has been ordained by God; and on the other hand, Western civilization with its materialistic culture, worship of ethnicity and the state, and denial of God’s supremacy."
*CAIR Founder and Executive Director Awad was IAP’s public relations director. He complained to the Simon Wiesenthal Center because it placed a picture of the notorious Ayatollah Khomeini on a “wall of demagogues.” Awad wrote in the Muslim World Monitor that the World Trade Center trial, which ended in the conviction in 1994 of four Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, was “a travesty of justice” and that there was “ample evidence indicating that both the Mossad and the Egyptian intelligence played a role in the explosion.” He is an admitted supporter of “the Hamas movement.”
*CAIR Founder and Board Chairman Ahmad, also a former IAP official, was heard on FBI surveillance tapes of Hamas meetings in the United States during 1993 explaining that for political reasons the IAP could not admit its support for Hamas, and then discussing how the Hamas agenda could be cloaked and advanced in the United States. Ahmad’s practice while at IAP was to bring Hamas representatives to speak at IAP conferences.
*Mohammed Nimer, a CAIR official, was on the board of the United Association for Studies and Research, a Hamas front founded by Marzook.
*Doug AKA “Ibrahim” Hooper (“Hooper”), CAIR’s director of Communications, also worked for the IAP before joining CAIR. He has said, “I wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future…” On the Michael Medved radio show in 2003, he said that if Muslims ever become a majority in the United States, it would be safe to assume that they would want to replace the U.S. Constitution with Islamic law, as most Muslims believe that God’s law is superior to man-made law.”
*Ihsan Bagby, a CAIR board member, has written Moslems “can never be full citizens” of the United States “because there is no way we can be fully committed to the institutions and ideologies of this country” as the United States is not a Moslem country.
*Randall (“Ismail”) Royer, CAIR’s communications specialist and civil rights coordinator, is serving a 20-year prison term, having pled guilty after being charged with conspiring to help Al Qaida and the Taliban kill Americans in Afghanistan. When arrested, CAIR’s Royer had: “AK-47-style rifles, telescopic lenses, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and tracer rounds, documents on undertaking jihad and martyrdom, [and] a copy of the terrorist handbook containing instructions on how to manufacture and use explosives and chemicals as weapons.”
*Bassem Khafagi, CAIR’s community relations director, pled guilty in September 2003 to lying on his visa application and passing bad checks, and was deported. Khafagi was also a founding member and president of the Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA), a radical organization under federal investigation for terror-related activities.
*Rabih Haddad, a CAIR fundraiser, was arrested on terror-related charges and deported from the United States.
*Siraj Wahaj, a CAIR advisory board member, is a former member of the Nation of Islam (NOI) who supports polygamy and full implementation of Islamic law in the United States. In 1991, speaking to the Islamic Association of North Texas, Wahaj called Operation Desert Storm “one of the most diabolical plots ever in the annals of history,” and that the war was “part of a larger plan, to destroy the greatest challenge to the Western world, and that’s Islam.” In 1995, he was named an un-indicted co-conspirator in the plot to blow up the World Trade Center that was led by the “blind sheikh,” Omar Abdul Rahman. CAIR described Wahaj as “one of the most respected Muslim leaders in America.”
FP: Let's talk about the importance of this libel suit to free speech. CAIR has used the courts as a tactic to stifle criticism of the Islamist threat to America. This is a tactic that was first used by the Saudis in Great Britain and it appears to have been imported here. How do you think the Whitehead case has counteracted this?
Rubinstein: The Whitehead case has counteracted the tactic of using U.S. courts to stifle free speech by demonstrating that the blowback from a defamation lawsuit – properly defended – is generally far worse than the harm caused by the original statements themselves. Defamation plaintiffs that take on a defendant with a good legal team often lose in two ways: First, the act of filing suit results in the original statements becoming more widely circulated. Second, anything less than either a plaintiff’s verdict, a retraction or a correction, is quite rightly perceived as an affirmation that the challenged statements are in fact true in all respects. Because U.S. laws reflect respect for robust free speech, filing a defamation suit to chill criticism is a very risky tactic, and can work only if the target refuses to fight back. Mr. Whitehead fought back.
FP: What are some lessons learned from this case?
Rubinstein: Lessons learned include:
1) As Justice Brandeis once said, the sunlight of public disclosure is the best disinfectant. For example, in its responses to our discovery requests, CAIR refused to admit Hamas murders innocent civilians. Now, we uncovered evidence – all of it in the public record, by the way – showing CAIR’s relationship with Hamas and its supporting entities. But if anyone still had questions regarding CAIR’s true views on this matter, this answer should put all doubts to rest.
2) CAIR avoids critical scrutiny, and its leaders are especially thin-skinned. To me, these traits suggest CAIR is vulnerable. It’s important to remember that parties who resort to using lawsuits as a substitute for open debate generally do so for two reasons: First, they have the money to do so, and second, they recognize they can’t win a fair exchange of ideas. CAIR apparently had the economic resources available to support its litigation campaign. But I can only speculate why CAIR tried to silence Mr. Whitehead. My sense is that every time a CAIR official appears on television, more of the truth seeps out, and CAIR alienates more and more Americans. In fact, I believe that if the mainstream media subjected CAIR to a fraction of the scrutiny given to the Duke Lacrosse team case, CAIR would be totally discredited.
3) More needs to be done to expose and make public CAIR’s funding sources and financial practices. There are stories in the Arab press on CAIR’s foreign donors. Why these articles have not been printed in the U.S. press is something of a mystery to me.
4) Don’t back down. Ever. CAIR’s only hope of success is if Americans fail to stand up for what makes this country great.
FP: The record clearly shows that CAIR does have extensive and significant ties to Saudi funding sources, that it does promote fundamentalist Islam, and that it does promote and advocate the termination of the State of Israel. Now the worry is: does CAIR genuinely reflect the views of Muslims in the US? If it does, we have a serious problem, no?
Rubinstein: I believe CAIR most assuredly does not speak for all Muslims, for I know there are American Muslims who oppose the policies of CAIR’s current leadership. Nevertheless, I have come to the conclusion that the world view of CAIR’s current leaders – at least the one I found reflected in over a decade’s worth of public statements and activities – has traction among key Muslim elites (e.g. clerics and community activists) who have come to this country from the Mid-East, Pakistan, Malaysia, and India, and among certain Muslim converts. As I went through CAIR’s paper and Internet trail back to approximately 1994, it seemed to me CAIR’s world view, its “meta-message” as it were, can be broken down into three key themes. The first is terrible fear. It seems from reading their material that Islam is under intense assault. The second is triumphalist confidence. It seemed to me that the authors of CAIR’s e-mail alerts and website texts and written reports believe that Mohamed said that Islam is the only true faith, so Muslim control and domination are eventually assured. The third is that Jews and Zionists are apparently a source of and explanation for Muslim problems and failures. The conclusion seems to be Muslims will reap the benefits if Jewish “power” is reduced.
The reason I think this world view has traction among many Mid-Eastern and South Asian Muslim elites, is that I saw these same themes reappear over and over again on a variety of Muslim websites, that I explored, and in many mosque sermons and Islamic publications that I read. In the course of defending Mr. Whitehead, we engaged in a great deal of wide-ranging research, and I must tell you that I found entering the Islamic Internet world was like walking through a sewer. The contempt and intolerance for difference and dissent (even by other Muslims) is shocking. Anti-Americanism and disdain for Western civilization is a given. The oppression of women seems to be a basic cultural norm. And, of course, raw, eliminationist anti-Semitism is ubiquitous. Frankly, the obsessive fixation on Jews, Jewish control of the United States, and Jewish worldwide plots at times led me to believe there is some sort of mass psychosis at work. By comparison, CAIR’s use of language is more restrained. However, the fact that CAIR might genuinely reflect the views of many Muslims in the United States does not necessarily mean we have a serious problem. Muslims are a tiny minority in this country, and it is important to remember the Muslim community is not a monolith. In my view, we will have a serious problem only if the truth is hidden, ignored, or whitewashed, if our leaders fail to take appropriate measures, and if the American majority fails to aggressively defend its values.
FP: Reed Rubinstein, thank you for joining us today.
Rubinstein: Thank you, Jamie. FrontPage's work is critically important, and most appreciated.
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