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CAIR: Islamists Fooling the Establishment: Continued By: Daniel Pipes and Sharon Chadha
Middle East Quarterly | Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Foreign Funding

According to filed copies of its annual Internal Revenue Service Form 990, CAIR’s U.S. chapters have more than doubled their combined revenues from the $2.5 million they recorded in 2000 to $5.6 million in 2002, though the number dipped slightly to $5.3 million in 2003, the most recent year for which figures are available. That CAIR has recorded at least $3.1 million on its year-end combined balance sheets since 2001, combined with its minimal grant-making ($27,525 was the total that all CAIR chapters granted in 2003), suggests that CAIR is building an endowment and planning for the long term.

The Internal Revenue Service filings claim that the bulk of its funds come from “direct public support”[1] and its website explicitly denies that CAIR receives support from foreign sources: “We do not support directly or indirectly, or receive support from, any overseas group or government.” However, this denial is flatly untrue, for CAIR has accepted foreign funding, and from many sources.

 

A press release from the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington indicates that in August 1999, the Islamic Development Bank—a bank headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia—gave CAIR $250,000 to purchase land for its Washington, D.C. headquarters. CAIR’s decision to accept Islamic Development Bank funding is unfortunate, given the bank’s role as fund manager of the Al-Quds and the Al-Aqsa Funds, established by twelve Arab countries in order to fund the Palestinian intifada and provide financial support to the families of Palestinian “martyrs.”

 

According to records made public by Paul Sperry, CAIR purchased its national headquarters in 1999 through an unusual lease-purchase transaction with the United Bank of Kuwait. The bank was the deed holder and leased the building to CAIR; yet despite not owning the building, CAIR recorded the property on its balance sheet as a property asset valued at $2.6 million. This arrangement changed in September 2002 when CAIR bought out the Kuwaiti bank with funds provided, at least in part, by Al-Maktoum Foundation, based in Dubai and headed by Dubai’s crown prince and defense minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. 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. One only wonders what a more complete investigation of its real estate transactions would turn up.

 

In December 1999, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), an organization benefiting from Saudi patronage,[2] announced at a press conference in Saudi Arabia that it “was extending both moral and financial support to CAIR” [3] to help it construct its $3.5 million headquarters in Washington, D.C. WAMY also agreed to “introduce CAIR to Saudi philanthropists and recommend their financial support for the headquarters project.”[4] In 2002, CAIR and WAMY announced, again from Saudi Arabia, their cooperation on a $1 million public relations campaign. The Saudi Gazette, which reported the story, said that CAIR’s leader, Nihad Awad, “had already met leading Saudi businessmen” in order to “brief them about the projects and raise funds.”

 

Later that week on the same fundraising trip through the Middle East, CAIR reportedly received $500,000 from Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, reputed to be one of the world’s richest men. Waleed also, in May 2005, stated that he is “more than prepared” to work with organizations such as CAIR, “and to provide needed support” to them.

 

CAIR has received at least $12,000 from the International Relief Organization (also called the International Islamic Relief Organization, or IIRO), which itself was the recipient of some $10 million from its parent organization in Saudi Arabia. (See a 1994 check from the IIRO for $5,000, figure 2.) The International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) gave CAIR’s Washington office $14,000 in 2003. According to a court-filed affidavit, David Kane of the U.S. Customs Service determined that the IIIT receives donations from overseas via its related entities. Law enforcement is looking at the IIIT connection with Operation Green Quest, the major investigation into the activities of individuals and organizations believed to be “ardent supporters” of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Al-Qaeda. CAIR, not surprisingly, criticized the probe of its donor, telling the Financial Times of London that the investigation is an attack on “respected Islamic institutions.”[5]

 

Despite these many foreign sources, CAIR still claims to receive no funds from outside the United States.

 

An Integral Part of the Wahhabi Lobby

 

CAIR has a key role in the “Wahhabi lobby”—the network of organizations, usually supported by donations from Saudi Arabia, whose aim is to propagate the especially extreme version of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. For one, it sends money to other parts of the lobby. According to CAIR’s Form 990 filings for 2003, its California offices invested $325,000 with the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT). The NAIT was established in 1971 by the Muslim Student Association of the U.S. and Canada, which bills itself as the precursor to the Islamic Society of North America, now the largest member of the Wahhabi lobby. According to Newsweek, authorities say that over the years “NAIT money has helped the Saudi Arabian sect of Wahhabism—or Salafism, as the broader, pan-Islamic movement is called—to seize control of hundreds of mosques in U.S. Muslim communities.” J. Michael Waller, a terrorism expert, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that NAIT is believed to own 50 to 79 percent of the mosques in North America. According to Waller, NAIT was raided as part of Operation Green Quest in 2002, on suspicions of involvement in terrorist financing.

 

CAIR affiliates regularly speak at events sponsored by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an umbrella organization of the Wahhabi lobby. Nabil Sadoun, a director of CAIR-DC, spoke at the ISNA’s regional conference in 2003. Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR’s Southern California chapter, and Fouad Khatib, the CAIR-California chairman, spoke at an ISNA-sponsored event. Safaa Zarzour, president of CAIR-Chicago, was also an ISNA speaker, as was Azhar Azeez, a board member of CAIR-Dallas, who has spoken at several ISNA conferences.

 

In January 2003, the Saudi newspaper Ar-Riyadh reported that Nihad Awad appeared on a panel along with ‘Aqil ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-‘Aqil, secretary-general of the Saudi charity Al-Haramain Foundation—despite that organization’s well-known ties to terrorism and the fact that already in March 2002, long before Awad’s visit with Al-Haramain, the U.S. and Saudi governments had jointly designated eleven of its branches “financial supporter[s] of terrorism.” The U.S.-based branch of the organization was also subsequently designated in September 2004.

 

To fully appreciate what it means that more than half of U.S. mosques are promoting Saudi Islam, we refer to the Freedom House report, “Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Invade American Mosques.” It explains that Saudi documents disseminated at U.S. mosques are telling America’s Muslims that it is a religious obligation for them to hate Christians and Jews and warning that Muslims should not have Christians and Jews as friends, nor should they help them.

 

The Freedom House report indicates that Saudi publications disseminated by U.S. mosques: say it is lawful for Muslims to physically harm and steal from adulterers and homosexuals; condemn interpretations of Islam other than the strict “Wahhabi” version preached in Saudi Arabia; advocate the killing of those who convert out of Islam; assert that it is a Muslim’s duty to eliminate the State of Israel; and promote the idea that women should be segregated and veiled and, of course, barred from some employment and activities. But not to worry; CAIR’s spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper, tells us, “The majority of the stuff they picked is in Arabic, a language that most people in mosques don’t read.”[6]

 

Muslim Supremacism

 

CAIR’s personnel are normally tight-lipped about the organization’s agenda but sometimes let their ambitions slip out. CAIR’s long-serving chairman, Omar Ahmad, reportedly told a crowd of California Muslims in July 1998, “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran ... should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth.” Five years later, Ahmad denied having said this and issued a press release saying he was seeking a retraction. But the reporter stood behind her story, and the newspaper that reported Ahmad’s remarks told WorldNetDaily it had “not been contacted by CAIR.”

 

In 1993, before CAIR existed, Ibrahim Hooper told a reporter: “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.”[7] On the Michael Medved radio show in 2003, Hooper made the same point more positively: 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.[8]

 

Other CAIR personnel also express their contempt for the United States. Ihsan Bagby of CAIR’s Washington office has said that Muslims “can never be full citizens of this country,” referring to the United States, “because there is no way we can be fully committed to the institutions and ideologies of this country.”[9] Ayloush said that the war on terror has become a “war on Muslims” with the U.S. government the “new Saddam.” He concluded: “So let’s end this hypocrisy, this hypocrisy that we are better than the other dictator.”

 

In a bizarre coda, Parvez Ahmed, the current CAIR chairman, touted the virtues of Islamic democracy in 2004 by portraying the Afghan constitutional process as superior to the U.S. one:

 

The new Afghan constitution shows that the constitution of a Muslim nation can be democratic and yet not contradict the essence of Islam. During my meeting with a high-ranking Afghan delegation during their recent visit to the United States, I was told that the Afghan constitutional convention included Hindu delegates despite Hindus accounting for only 1 percent of the population. Contrast this with our own constitutional convention that excluded women and blacks.[10]

 

Intimidation

 

CAIR attempts to close down public debate about itself and Islam in several ways, starting with a string of lawsuits against public and private individuals and several publications. CAIR’s Rabiah Ahmed has openly acknowledged that lawsuits are increasingly an “instrument” for it to use.

 

In addition, CAIR has resorted to financial pressure in an effort to silence critics. One such case concerns ABC radio personality Paul Harvey, who on December 4, 2003, described the vicious nature of cock fighting in Iraq, then commented: “Add to the [Iraqi] thirst for blood, a religion which encourages killing, and it is entirely understandable if Americans came to this bloody party unprepared.” CAIR responded a day later with a demand for “an on-air apology.” CAIR then issued a call to its supporters to contact Harvey’s advertising sponsors to press them to pull their ads “until Harvey responds to Muslim concerns.” Although Harvey quickly and publicly retracted his remarks, CAIR continued its campaign against him.

 

Another case of financial intimidation took place in March 2005, when CAIR campaigned to have National Review remove two booksSerge Trifkovic’s The Sword of the Prophet and J.L. Menezes’ The Life and Religion of Mohammedas well as the positive reviews of those books, from its on-line bookstore. CAIR claimed the books defame Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. When it did not get immediate satisfaction from National Review, it instructed its partisans to pressure the Boeing Corporation to withdraw its advertisements from the magazine. National Review briefly took down both books but then quickly reposted the one by Trifkovic. Trifkovic himself argued that CAIR’s success here “will only whet Islamist appetites and encourage their hope that the end-result will be a crescent on the Capitol a generation or two from now.”

 

CAIR resorted to another form of intimidation versus Florida radio show host and Baptist pastor Mike Frazier. Frazier had criticized local and state officials in September 2004 for attending a CAIR awards dinner because, as he put it, “If these people would have bothered to check CAIR out beforehand they would have seen that it is a radical group.” He termed what followed “absolutely unbelievable.” Within a month, he says he received six death threats and forty-seven threatening phone calls, was accosted by strangers, was labeled an “extremist” and a “fundamentalist zealot,” and accused of “propagating fear, terror and disunity” by the St. Petersburg Times. Several members of his church fled his congregation because, according to Frazier, “they were afraid.”

 

Other CAIR targets of intimidation have included the Simon Wiesenthal Center for juxtaposing a picture of the Ayatollah Khomeini next to Adolf Hitler, and the Reader’s Digest for an article, “The Global War on Christians,” which CAIR found “smears Islam“ by citing well-documented cases of Christian persecution. CAIR’s Nihad Awad faulted the Reader’s Digest for leaving the impression that “Islam somehow encourages or permits rape, kidnapping, torture, and forced conversion.”

 

In December 2003, CAIR ruined the career of an army officer and nurse, Captain Edwina McCall, who had treated American soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan but ended up resigning under a cloud of suspicion. Her crime? Using her military e-mail address on an Internet discussion board concerning the Islamist agenda. CAIR sent the comments to the secretary of defense, calling attention to her allegedly “bigoted anti-Muslim comments” and demanding that her “extremist and Islamophobic views” be investigated and then followed by “appropriate action.” The Army immediately cast the officer under suspicion, leading her to resign from a career she had loved.

 

At times, CAIR inspires its attack dogs to make threats and sits back when they follow through. After Daniel Pipes published an article in July 1999 explaining the difference between moderate and radical Islam, CAIR launched fifteen separate attacks on him in the space of two months, attacks widely reprinted in Muslim publications. Dozens of letters followed to the newspapers that carried Pipes’ articles, some calling him harsh names (“bigot and racist”), others comparing him to the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis, or characterizing his writings as an “atrocity” filled with “pure poison” and “outright lies.” More alarmingly, the letter-writers accused the author of perpetrating a hate crime against Muslims or of promoting and abetting such crimes. One threatened: “Is Pipes ready to answer the Creator for his hatred or is he a secular humanist ...? He will soon find out.”

 

CAIR metes out even worse treatment to Muslim opponents, as the case of Khalid Durán shows. Durán taught at leading universities and wrote about Islam for think tanks; he was commissioned by the American Jewish Committee to write Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews. Fourteen scholars of Islam endorsed the manuscript prior to publication; it won glowing reviews from such authoritative figures as Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore, the eminent church historian Martin Marty, and Prince Hassan of Jordan. Then, before the book was even released, CAIR issued two press releases insulting Durán personally and demanding that the Children of Abraham be withheld until a group of CAIR-approved academics could review the book to correct what it assumed (without having read the manuscript) would be its “stereotypical or inaccurate content.” Islamist publications quickly picked up CAIR’s message, with Cairo’s Al-Wafd newspaper announcing that Durán’s book “spreads anti-Muslim propaganda” through its “distortions of Islamic concepts.” A weekly in Jordan reported that ‘Abd al-Mun’im Abu Zantone of that country’s most powerful Islamist leadershad declared that Durán “should be regarded as an apostate,” and on this basis called for an Islamic ruling to condone Durán’s death. Days later, Durán’s car was broken into, and a dead squirrel and excrement were thrown inside. CAIR, far from apologizing for the evil results of its handiwork, accused the American Jewish Committee of fabricating the death edict as a “cheap publicity stunt to boost book sales.”

 

Deceit

 

CAIR has a long record of unreliability and deceit even in relatively minor matters. To begin with, it has the audacity to claim to be “America’s largest civil rights group,” ignoring much larger groups by far, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Anti-Defamation League.

 

In May 2005, CAIR published its annual report on the violations of Muslim civil rights in America which purported to document a significant rise in the number of hate crimes directed at Muslims. According to the report, “anti-Muslim hate crimes in the United States” have gone up dramatically: from 42 cases in 2002, to 93 cases in 2003, to 141 in 2004. The mainstream media dutifully recycled CAIR’s press release, effectively endorsing this study by reporting it as a serious piece of research.[11] But closer inspection shows that of twenty “anti-Muslim hate crimes” for which CAIR gives information, at least six are invalid.

 

David Skinner points out a further problem with the 2004 report: its credulity in reporting any incident, no matter how trivial, subjective or unsubstantiated. One anecdote concerns a Muslim college student who encountered “flyers and posters with false and degrading statements about the Qur’an and the prophet Muhammad”; another concerns a student at Roger Williams in Rhode Island who wrote that “a true Muslim is taught to slay infidels.” Also, any reluctance to accommodate Muslim women wearing a headscarf or veil was tallied as a bias incident, even in the case of genuine quandaries (such as veiled athletes or drivers applying for their licenses).

 

Nor is this the first unreliable CAIR study. Referring to the 1996 version, Steven Emerson noted in congressional testimony that “a large proportion of the complaints have been found to be fabricated, manufactured, distorted, or outside standard definitions of hate crimes.” Jorge Martinez of the U.S. Department of Justice dismissed CAIR’s 2003 report, Guilt by Association, as “unfair criticism based on a lot of misinformation and propaganda.”

 

CAIR’s manipulative habits assert themselves even in petty ways. For example, CAIR is not above conducting straw polls in an effort to forward its political agenda and may even be willing to exaggerate its own outreach efforts. This seems to be the case in CAIR’s library project, where it claims to have sent thousands of packages of books and tapes to American libraries. An inquiry turned up the curious fact that while CAIR claimed the District of Columbia had received thirty-seven such packages, records showed only one such copy being recorded. Maybe the mailmen lost the remaining thirty-six?

 

In September 2005, CAIR indulged in some Stalinist revisionism: as Robert Spencer revealed, CAIR doctored a photo on its website to make it more Islamically correct by manually adding a hijab onto a Muslim woman. Despite all this, CAIR’s statements continue to gain the respectful attention of uncritical media outlets.

 

The Establishment’s Failure

 

The few hard-hitting media analyses of CAIR generally turn up in the conservative press.[12] Otherwise, it generally wins a pass from news organizations, as Erick Stakelbeck has documented. The mainstream media treat CAIR respectfully, as a legitimate organization, avoiding the less salutary topics explored here, even the multiple connections to terrorism.

 

One telling example of the media’s negligence in investigating CAIR occurred when Ghassan Elashi—a founding board member of CAIR’s Texas chapter—was indicted and convicted of supporting terrorism by sending money to Hamas and Mousa Abu Marzook. Reporting on this, not one single mainstream media source mentioned Elashi’s CAIR connection. Worse, the media went to CAIR and quoted it on Elashi’s arrest, without noting their close connection.[13]

 

The Washington Post seems particularly loath to expose CAIR’s unsavory aspects. For example, on January 20, 2005, it ran a story about the opening of CAIR’s new Virginia office on Grove Street in Herndon. The article not only passed up the opportunity to consider CAIR’s presence in a town notorious for Islamist organizational connections to Al-Qaeda and to the Wahhabi network, but it was also remarkably similar in tone and style to CAIR’s own press release on the same subject. (A later Washington Post article did mention that the new CAIR offices are located on the very street where federal agents had conducted a major raid in March 2002.)

 

There is much else for the press to look into. One example: CAIR-DC lists the Zahara Investment Corporation as a “related organization” on its IRS Form 990. Curiously, Zahara Investment Corporation was listed as a tax-exempt entity in 2002; in 2003, it became a non-tax-exempt entity.[14] This prompts several questions: how is a tax-exempt like CAIR related to an investment company, much less a corporation? How does an investment corporation become a tax-exempt? And how does it change itself into a non-exempt? And why did CAIR-DC invest $40,000 of the public’s money in 1998 in securities that it would have to write off less than three years later? Whose securities were these? The usual databases have nothing on Zahara Investment Corporation; all this took place under the radar screen.

 

That the U.S. government, the mainstream media, educational institutions, and others have given CAIR a free pass amounts to a dereliction of duty. Yet, there appear to be no signs of change. How long will it be until the establishment finally recognizes CAIR for what it is and denies it mainstream legitimacy?

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NOTES:

[1] The IRS offers several choices under the item “Revenues,” including direct public support, indirect public support, government contributions (grants), membership dues and assessments, and net income or (loss) from special events or rental properties—the categories in which CAIR has classified its revenues.

[2] WAMY’s relationship to Saudi Arabia was described this way by its secretary general: “The Kingdom provides us with a supportive environment that allows us to work openly within the society to collect funds and spread activities. It also provides us with protection abroad through Saudi embassies and consulates, in addition to financial support.” “WAMY Team in Afghanistan Risks Life to Deliver Aid,” Middle East Newsfile, Nov. 20, 2001.

[3]WAMY Spends SR12m on New Mosques,” Middle East Newsfile, Dec. 23, 1999.

[4] Arab News, Dec. 23, 1999.

[5] Financial Times (London), Mar. 28, 2002.

[6] Dallas Morning News, Feb. 5, 2005.

[7] Star Tribune (Minneapolis), Apr. 4, 1993.

[8] Personal communication from Michael Medved, Oct. 21, 2004.

[9] Quoted in Steve A. Johnson, “Political Activities of Muslims in America,” in Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, ed., The Muslims of America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 115.

[10] Orlando Sentinel, Feb. 23, 2004.

[11] See, for example, The New York Times, May 12, 2005; The Washington Post, May 12, 2005; and Los Angeles Times, May 12, 2005.

[12] Zev Chafets, “Beware the Wolves Among Us,” The New York Daily News, Sept. 28, 2001; editorial, “CAIR and Terrorism,” The Washington Times, July 24, 2004; David Frum, “The Question of CAIR,” The National Post, Nov. 23, 2004; Eli Lake, “Me Rethinks a CAIR Event,” The New York Sun, Nov. 12, 2003; Daniel Pipes, “CAIR: ‘Moderate’ Friends of Terror,” The New York Post, Apr. 22, 2002; Michael Putney, “Pressure May Smother Dialogue,” The Miami Herald, Sept. 10, 2003; Stephen Schwartz, “Not So Holy after All; The Bush Administration Takes on a Hamas Front Group,” The Weekly Standard, Dec. 17, 2001; and Glenn Sheller, “Muslim Group’s Conflict with Discrimination Is Uphill Fight,” The Columbus Dispatch, Aug. 31, 2004.

[13] “4 Indicted in Texas Terror Probe,” The Boston Globe, Dec. 19, 2002; “5 Brothers Charged with Aiding Hamas,” The New York Times, Dec. 19, 2002; “Hamas Arrests Called Unfair,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dec. 20, 2002; “Aid Sought for 5 Suspected of Terror Ties,” Associated Press, Feb. 15, 2003; “Muslim Leader Criticizes Prosecution,” United Press International, July 9, 2004; “Muslim Leaders Blast Brothers’ Convictions,” The Dallas Morning News, July 10, 2004

[14] CAIR’s DC office is required to make its Form 990 available to the public upon request.


Daniel Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle East Forum; Sharon Chadha (sharon.chadha@verizon.net) is the co-author of Middle East Politics (forthcoming).


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