New Jersey congressman refuses to sever ties with anti-Islam hate group

New Jersey congressman refuses to sever ties with anti-Islam hate group

CAIR today expressed dissatisfaction with a statement issued by Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) in reaction to criticism from Muslims nationwide who objected to Smith's support for an anti-Muslim "hate group." In his statement, Smith said he "denounced the Islamophobic sentiments expressed by the International Christian Concern" (ICC), but refused a demand to sever ties with the group itself. (ICC until recently listed Smith as an "honorary board member.")

"Despite rejecting the group's bigoted views on Islam, Smith's statement did not rule out working with International Christian Concern in the future," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. He added that Smith told the New Jersey Star-Ledger he would continue to work with ICC on "religious freedom issues." Awad repeated CAIR's demand that Smith cut ties with the group, as has Smith's political challenger, Reed Gusciora.

On ICC's web site, the group's president claimed that African-Americans are attracted to Islam because of "two primeval lusts: power and possessions." He also said that Muslims do not seek peaceful co-existence, that "Islam and Christianity are diametrically opposed," that "there is a dark side to Islam that is often distorted or omitted...Within this dark side lies the real truth concerning Islam," that Muslims were the "sole originators" of the slave trade, and that "manipulators behind Islam" encourage Muslims to carry out acts of aggression.

After admitting to the offensive nature of the statements, Smith went on to attack CAIR and those who contacted his office for attempting to "intimidate" him. He pointed to other occasions in which CAIR challenged Islamophobic statements.

In one of these incidents, the article challenged by CAIR portrayed Islam as a permanent threat to Western society, used racial and ethnic slurs against Arabs, suggested the American Muslim community could pose a threat to the "Judeo-Christian identity" of society, and claimed Christian-Muslim dialogue might be a "delusion."

Smith's attack seemed to rely on information of the type and style used by Steven Emerson, a controversial author who has a long history of defamatory and inaccurate attacks on the Islamic community in this country.

"It is unfortunate that Representative Smith chooses to evade responsibility for his associations by blaming the messenger. We appreciate his condemnation of ICC's views, but that condemnation will not ring true if he continues to work with the group itself," said CAIR's Awad.

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CAIR’s department to monitor and combat Islamophobia tracks sources and incidents of Islamophobia across the country, creates dossiers on prominent Islamophobes, and produces factsheets to debunk false information that has been spread about Islam.