The Edmond Sun
EDMOND — Depending on who is speaking, the Council on American-Islamic Relations is either a bridge-building civil rights group or a front for terrorists.
In recent weeks and months, anti-CAIR rhetoric has been ratcheting up, especially on the Internet, where information — or misinformation — about the group is abundant.
One thing that is certain is that the relationship between CAIR and the FBI has oscillated in recent years. A call from The Sun to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., seeking comment on the group, resulted in the issuance of a statement.
In it, the FBI says the public’s understanding and trust remain essential to its success in all aspects of its mission.
“CAIR has been advised of the reasons behind our suspension of formal partnership,” the FBI stated. “These reasons include the fact that CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator in United States v. Holy Land Foundation and CAIR’s failure to answer our questions about a connection between their executives and Hamas. Until these questions are answered, the FBI does not consider CAIR an appropriate partner for formal liaison activities.”
An unindicted co-conspirator is a person or entity that is alleged in an indictment to have engaged in conspiracy, but who is not charged in the same indictment.
In May 2009, a federal judge handed down sentences in the Holy Land Foundation case. The government contends that from its inception, the Holy Land Foundation existed to support Hamas, a designated terrorist organization.
Five of the foundation’s leaders were convicted by a federal grand jury on charges of providing material support to Hamas. Before the foundation was designated as a terrorist organization and shut down in December 2001, it was the largest U.S. Muslim charity, according to the FBI. It was based in a Dallas suburb.
The Holy Land Foundation became the chief fundraising arm for the Palestine Committee in the U.S. created by the Muslim Brotherhood to support Hamas, according to the FBI.
According to a wiretap of a 1993 Palestine Committee meeting in Philadelphia, former Foundation President and CEO Shukri Abu Baker spoke about playing down their Hamas ties in order to keep raising money in the U.S. Another wiretapped phone call included Abdulrahman Odeh, the foundation’s New Jersey representative, referring to a suicide bombing as “a beautiful operation.”
CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said the organization has no connections of any kind to terrorism, and, to the contrary, it has made efforts to denounce terrorism.
“It is particularly galling when we hear these kinds of smears because we know what we do on a daily basis,” Hooper said.
CAIR has a record of exemplary social and political activism dating back to 1994, and it is arguably the most visible and pubic representative of the American Muslim community, Hooper said.
Hooper said up to 2007 his organization’s relations with the FBI were relatively rosy.
In March 2007, the Oklahoma City FBI office announced the first meeting of the new Muslim Community Outreach Program at the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism. The program was initiated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which was comprised of investigators from various law enforcement agencies including the Edmond Police Department.
The FBI said it relies daily on assistance from members of the local Muslim community, which contributes to the efforts to protect public safety.
Then the relationship changed.
“You tell me what happened then,” Hooper said.
Edmond resident Razi Hashmi, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of CAIR, said the group’s aim is to enhance understanding of Islam, to encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims and build bridges between cultures.
In 2008, there were 41 civil rights cases reported to the state chapter, according to CAIR’s 2007-08 annual report.
Hashmi said the anti-CAIR rhetoric speaks to a larger story about intolerance, misunderstanding and misinformation.
Area resident Charlie Meadows, chairman of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee, said CAIR is a front organization to make Islam as appealing as possible to western culture.
Meadows said CAIR’s effort to improve relations with Americans is simply a front for another agenda, and the country needs to get serious and start profiling. There has been an influx of Muslims and some of the more radical elements are talking about bringing Sharia law to the U.S., Meadows said.
Meadows said Christianity and Islam are not compatible, and some teachings in Islam lead to radicalism, he believes. He cited a Pew Research Center survey, which found one in four younger U.S. Muslims say suicide bombings to defend their religion are acceptable at least in some circumstances.
The survey also revealed a community that in many ways blends comfortably in U.S. society.
In January, 5th District congressional candidate Kevin Calvey issued a press release containing information related to CAIR and the alleged ties to terrorism.
Calvey said the federal government should investigate CAIR, that the group’s tax exempt status should be in question and he wants all Oklahomans to be aware of what the organization is about. He said it is a problematic organization and his goal is to put the truth out about CAIR.
“It’s really very scary,” Calvey said. “This isn’t some innocuous group.”
Last month, Cindy Crenshaw, president of Oklahomans Against CAIR Hate, called for the condemnation of CAIR after a former CAIR leader was deported.
Crenshaw, who was injured by an explosive device while she was serving in the Air Force in West Germany, said she wants Oklahomans to know the truth about CAIR, that it is a hate group like the Ku Klux Klan.
“I love America and don’t want to sit back and watch enemies destroy my country, both from the inside and out,” Crenshaw said.
Crenshaw said she wants Americans to do their own research on CAIR and its alleged ties to terrorism.
Calvey, an Iraq War veteran, said while he was in Iraq, he worked with Muslims every day including officials, some who were American citizens, and it was his experience that American Muslims are loyal. He said it is not his intention to insult Muslims.
Calvey said his educate-the-public effort is not about Muslims, but about CAIR, which has a right to free speech.
Hooper urged Oklahomans to learn about their Muslim neighbors. Knowledge leads to less prejudice. Hooper encouraged people to visit a mosque, that it is a duty of Muslims to hold open houses in their places of worship.
The rise of anti-CAIR rhetoric is particularly disturbing, Hooper said. He said he hopes U.S. leaders and decision-makers will stand by CAIR when smears happen.
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