CAIR: Who We Are Series
Does CAIR Encourage Cooperation with Law Enforcement?
Like the rest of the mainstream American Muslim community, CAIR believes it is both our civic and religious duty to work with law enforcement to protect our nation. Even one incident of violent extremism is too many. CAIR’s a civil liberties and advocacy organization. We act to ensure that American democracy, with its foundational belief that individuals have a right to legal counsel when dealing with law enforcement, works for everyone.
CAIR is proud to continue the Founding Fathers’ tradition of working for checks on overly-broad law enforcement efforts. In 1761, Boston lawyer James Otis spoke against overly-broad warrants issued by the British government. These Writs of Assistance allowed the crown’s agents to search any house or ship they choose. John Adams–who went on to sign the Declaration of Independence and become our nation’s second president–said of Otis’s speech, “Then and there, the child Independence was born.”
We are not law enforcement. Our staff are neither trained as, nor empowered to be, investigators. We make this point because some in the wider society expect Islamic institutions to have prescient knowledge of criminal activity by Muslims. Such a notion is ridiculous.
CAIR materials consistently reinforce the organization’s policy of constitutionally-informed cooperation with law enforcement.
- CAIR’s American Muslim Civic Pocket Guide, distributed at mosques and CAIR events nationwide, notes: “IF FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTACTS YOU … American Muslims strongly support law enforcement and the protection of our national security. As Americans, we also value civil rights. All Americans have the constitutional right of due process and the right to be politically active. If you know of any criminal activity taking place in your community, it is both your religious and civic duty to immediately report such activity to local and federal law enforcement agencies.” (emphasis added)
- CAIR’s “Community Safety Kit” for American Muslims begins by urging American Muslims to “do their part to ensure the safety and security of our nation.” It goes on to say: “If anyone notes suspicious persons or activities in their community, they should report it immediately to the local Field Office of the FBI.”
In its 2010 report American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat, the Congressional Research Service, the non-partisan institution which works for the U.S Congress, relates two instances of CAIR working with authorities regarding persons of concern.
- “The  story of the five men from the Alexandria, Virginia area … became public when the Council on American-Islamic Relations got their families in touch with the FBI after the five left the United States without telling their families.”
- “Posing as a new convert, Monteilh arrived at the Irvine Islamic Center in 2006 wearing robes and a long beard, using the name Farouk al-Aziz. Monteilh had a criminal record that included serving 16 months in state prison on two grand theft charges. Members of the Islamic Center of Irvine were reportedly alarmed about Monteilh and his talk of jihad and plans for a terrorist attack. The local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations reported him to the Irvine police and obtained a three-year restraining order against him.” [Note: It was later revealed the Monteilh was an FBI informant.]
A U.S. Attorney and FBI Director Mueller acknowledge that CAIR works with them. The head of the largest sheriff’s department in America defends CAIR.
- “Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones, who watched the [a hearing held by Rep. Peter King], also took exception to [Minnesota Rep.] Cravaack’s characterization [of CAIR]. “I’m frustrated by the blanket condemnation of (the council),” Jones said. He said his terrorism unit of prosecutors has a working relationship with the council’s local chapter as well as other entities in sniffing out extremism or wrongdoing. “I hope that (the hearing) does not have an adverse impact on the good things happening here in Minnesota with our Somali community,” Jones said. “We are on a good path with closer collaboration. – RubÃƒ©n Rosario, (Minnesota) Pioneer Press, March 11, 2011
- “Last month, the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, said that the bureau had no ‘formal relationship’ with CAIR, but that the organization’s officials and chapters regularly worked with F.B.I. officials on investigations and related matters. This included a news conference held on Thursday in Sacramento to announce an arrest in a mosque vandalism case. – Scott Shane, New York Times, March 11, 2011.
- “When you attack CAIR, you attack virtually every Muslim in America.” – Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, head of the largest, Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2010.
2010: Meetings with Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security
- In December, 2010, CAIR-Tampa met with representatives of the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.
- CAIR-Michigan met 13 times with Federal law enforcement in 2010, including the FBI, TSA, ICE and CBP.
- CAIR-Philadelphia Executive Director Moein Khawaja was a main speaker at a town hall meeting with the FBI held by the Council of Islamic Organizations in Philadelphia, an umbrella group that of which CAIR-Philadelphia is a member. Similarly, CAIR-Chicago Civil Rights Director Christina Abraham moderated an event featuring a speech by Robert D. Grant, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Chicago Field Office, at the American Islamic College in July.
- In November, 2010, pre-Hajj season, CAIR-Philadelphia had a meeting with the customs and borders protection officers and Homeland Security officers who oversee international arrivals in Philadelphia. DHS gave tips to CAIR on how to make hajj travelers better prepared on what they can bring and what they can’t bring on travel. In turn, CAIR gave DHS security tips, such as hajj travelers should know which hajj group they are travelling with. If the traveler does not know, they may be a candidate for additional screening.
- CAIR-Minnesota, met with Customs and Borders Protection agents quarterly to bring up any cases or issues that come up at the airports. Once or twice a year DHS holds meeting with several Muslim organizations in Minnesota and CAIR participates in this meeting.
2010: Law Enforcement Coordination and Advisory Groups
- In 2010, CAIR-Sacramento, met with the Lodi Police Department, conducted a diversity training for the Lodi Police Department, participated in the U.S. Attorney’s Hate Crimes Task Force, participated in the Sacramento Police Multicultural Advisory Meeting, met with Office of Public Safety Accountability Director Francine Tournour, and met with District Attorney Jan Scully and Muslim community leaders.
- CAIR-Sacramento is affiliated with the District Attorney’s Multicultural Advisory Board, the American Immigration Lawyers Association-Law Enforcement Co-liaison-Sacramento/Chico sub region, the U.S. Attorney Hate Crimes Task Force, and the City of Sacramento Police Multicultural Committee.
- CAIR-San Antonio conducted three diversity trainings at the Police Academy in San Antonio in 2009. The chapter also conducted one diversity training in Austin, Texas at the Austin Police Department. The chapter conducted two other trainings for the State Police Academy in Austin that year.
- CAIR-New York attends monthly meetings with a group of the city’s Muslim leaders and representatives of the NYPD. The purpose of the initiative is to build trust, voice concerns and improve law enforcement. The chapter has regular communication with the NYPD’s community liaisons and hate crimes unit. As part of the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition, CAIR-NY has regular contact with higher levels of the NYPD regarding their counter-terrorism training policies. The collaboration has resulted in revisions and additions to the NYPD’s report on radicalization. CAIR-NY sent a representative to a meeting with Customs and Border Patrol from JFK airport to discuss policy and some specific cases of possible discrimination.
- CAIR-Philadelphia attends a monthly meeting with a state-wide agency in Pennsylvania, overseen by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). PHRC is a state-wide law enforcement agency that enforces equal opportunity laws and also monitors civil tensions. Every month they have a task force meeting called the Interagency Task Force on Civil Tension, which is made up of civil rights non-profits, law enforcement, Penn state agencies, and individuals who have positions in the community.
1996: First documented CAIR-led law enforcement bridge building function
- The organization’s first documented attempt to build bridges between American Muslims and those who enforce our nation’s laws was on March 26, 1996. (CAIR was founded in 1994.) A public release issued by CAIR on that date relates how staff arranged a meeting between representatives of the local and national Muslim community and the Colorado Attorney General, a U.S. Attorney and representatives from the Adams County District Attorney’s office.
2011: Policy violation, “Don’t talk to the FBI” poster
A poster placed on a CAIR chapter’s website is alleged to be “evidence” of nefarious intent on CAIR’s part. Like any organization, we are subject to occasional violations of our policies.
- The following statement was issued over CAIR’s national e-distribution list on January 14, 2011, shortly after the poster was brought to the attention of national staff:
- “CLARIFICATION: A 30-year old image that is inconsistent with CAIR’s policy of constitutionally-informed cooperation with law enforcement agencies was placed on the local events page of a CAIR chapter web site. Once it was brought to our attention it was removed. The image was not designed by CAIR and the event it promoted was not organized by CAIR.”
- Additionally, CAIR Legislative Director Corey Saylor appeared on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor to reaffirm CAIR’s policy.
2009: False accusations that CAIR told Somalis not to talk to the FBI
- On Saturday, June 13, 2009, representatives of more than a dozen Twin Cities Somali civil, religious and political organizations held a rally demonstrating their support for Minnesota’s only Muslim civil rights organization, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN).
- An article that appeared in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune described the scene this way:
- Last week, relatives of a Minneapolis teenager who said he was recently killed in Somalia and a Somali community leader claimed that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Minnesota chapter was discouraging area Somalis from cooperating with the FBI. But supporters Saturday said CAIR has only advised Somalis about their civil rights and urged them to tell the truth and work with law enforcement.
- “I was at CAIR’s three workshops for people who were issued subpoenas by the FBI and others seeking help and this was consistently the group’s message,” said Omar Hurre, executive director of Abubakar as-Saddique Islamic Center, Minneapolis’ largest Somali mosque.
- “CAIR has been the only organization to come into the Muslim community, the Somali community, to help them understand their civil rights,” said Somali Community Link Radio Host Zuhur Ahmed. “They’ve been here educating us about our rights as Americans since long before any men left for Somalia.” Ahmed added that, in addition to know your rights trainings, CAIR-MN has been promoting cooperation with law enforcement.
- Even an article reporting on community members who were critical of CAIR, refutes any allegation that CAIR violated its own policy of constitutionally-informed cooperation with law enforcement:
- During a months-long investigation into the disappearance of up to 20 Somali men, CAIR Minnesota launched a campaign to encourage anyone asked to speak to the FBI to be aware that they can have a lawyer present. Jessica Zikri, communications director for CAIR Minnesota, said that effort was not meant to discourage anyone from speaking to investigators. Rather, the campaign is meant to ensure that people’s civil rights are protected, she said. She said the group is willing to meet with families of the missing men.
- More recently, “FBI Special Agent Ralph Boelter, who investigated the Somalis who fled Minnesota to join the al-Shabab terror group, said Muslim-Americans couldn’t have been more helpful.”