Mr. Glen S. Lewy, National Chair
Mr. Abraham H. Foxman, National Director
605 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10158-3560
Dear Mr. Lewy and Mr. Foxman:
On August 14 and 21, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued press releases that repeat its past defamatory assertions about the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), smearing the good name of an organization with a proud history of standing for justice and mutual understanding.
It is unfortunate that the ADL would employ rhetorical tactics that are used routinely by anti-Semites. These tactics raise questions about the sincerity of the ADL's stated mission to "secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike."
How can the ADL ensure fair treatment of fellow Americans if it demonizes and smears one of the leading Muslim organizations advocating for equal rights in our society? How can the ADL assure justice when it attempts to muzzle the First Amendment rights of American Muslims by smearing them for simply seeking to ensure that a leading Muslim charity receives a fair trial?
Your August 21, 2007, press release stated: "If CAIR truly repudiates acts of terror and murder, we would welcome a simple declaratory statement that no cause, no matter how just it may be, justifies the use of suicide killers, rockets or other means to target civilians."
Long before your demands for such a statement, CAIR had acted numerous times out of the convictions of our faith to condemn terrorism. Our condemnations against terrorism pre-date September 11, 2001.
A little research would have revealed a CAIR-coordinated 2005 fatwa, or Islamic juristic opinion, that states in part: "All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam. It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence. It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians."
Also, our 2004 " Not in the Name of Islam" online petition states: "No injustice done to Muslims can ever justify the massacre of innocent people, and no act of terror will ever serve the cause of Islam."
We have consistently and persistently distanced Islam and American Muslims from terrorism and religious extremism. But the ADL has chosen to ignore all of our previous statements, choosing instead to make spurious claims about our motives and intent.
The ADL has profound misconceptions about CAIR. This is not surprising, given that ADL leaders have not met any of our national officers, nor have they had any interaction with our many local offices.
Contrary to the ADL's false assertions, CAIR is a mainstream American Muslim institution made up of ordinary people who serve our nation each day with distinction and pride.
Among our diverse leadership you will find doctors, engineers, teachers, businesspeople, homemakers, and public officials. Among our staff, you will find many whose families have called America home for generations. CAIR is rooted in the American experience of pluralism and is respected by the American Muslim community.
We ask that you visit our national office or a CAIR chapter, or spend time with us at any one of our many public events. Interact in a positive way with our officers, volunteers and supporters, and then judge what CAIR is all about. Use facts, not the propaganda or guilt by association that is so prevalent on the numerous Islamophobic websites that are anathema to our civilized society.
Read on our website a document titled "Demystifying the Urban Legends About CAIR" ( http://www.cair.com/urbanlegends.pdf) to find our answers to the many myths propagated by Muslim-bashers, many of whom profit from their insidious propaganda.
The ADL's press releases make a preposterous assertion that CAIR "can never be fully accepted in the Jewish community." CAIR is proud of its work and associations with many in the Jewish community and with many American Jewish organizations.
After speaking at a CAIR dinner, Shalom Center Director Rabbi Arthur Waskow (described by the Jewish Forward as one of the fifty most influential American Jews today) wrote: "Far from showing irreparable conflict between the Jewish community and CAIR, in fact the dinner showed that a seriously peace-committed part of the Jewish community can work with a seriously peace-committed part of the Muslim community, despite the existence of some violence-supportive people in both communities. That is the truthful and the important story."
Rabbi Jeff Sultar of Mishkan Shalom in Pennsylvania said: "We are inspired by the interfaith work that CAIR does, which serves to make all communities of faith stronger, and helps to address a serious gap in the understanding of Islam in the United States. As co-descendants of the legacy of Abraham, we fully support CAIR in its efforts to bring our shared values to the wider community... CAIR is doing the same kind of civil rights work and public education that Jewish communities had to do in the United States when the first wave of immigrants faced ignorance, intolerance and discrimination, and so we understand and support their efforts."
In the past, the ADL has been chastised by a federal judge for unfairly accusing others of anti-Semitism and settled a lawsuit for spying on Arab-Americans.
These are serious indiscretions on the part of the ADL. But that is not all; we have several other concerns and questions about the ADL, which we hope you will take the time to answer, much the same way we responded to your questions:
1. Irshad Manji does not represent the mainstream American Muslim community. Her writings and views reflect a one-sided criticism of Islam, which lacks scholarship about the faith. She is not seen as a credible source for information about Islam. What was the motive behind and purpose of the ADL hosting such a personality?
2. Has the ADL ever issued a statement criticizing illegal settlement activities by Israel or condemning the results of Israel's brutal occupation policies so well documented in President Carter's book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid"?
3. Why did the ADL not criticize Israel's deliberate destruction of the civilian infrastructure in Lebanon or the killing of hundreds of Lebanese civilians using American weapons paid for with American taxpayer dollars?
4. Why, unlike CAIR, did the ADL not call for a cease-fire in Lebanon that would have prevented death and destruction on both sides?
If the ADL stops promoting fringe elements of the Muslim community and affirms the right of Americans to criticize the policies of any foreign country, including but not limited to Israel, without being demonized, then CAIR will welcome any opportunity to enter into dialogue. Such a move would allow us to explore ways in which we can work together to end discrimination and secure justice for all Americans.
The holy months of Ramadan and Tishrei will once again coincide this year. Let us use the holiness of these sacred months to enter into dialogue intended to raise Jewish and Muslim voices in America for the cause of peace and justice in the Middle East for all people of the region.
We await your response.
Parvez Ahmed, Ph.D.