Rep. Bill Pascrell is a New Jersey Democrat whose 8th District includes Passaic and Paterson, cities with significant Islamic communities. The other day, Pascrell arranged for a national Islamic civil liberties group to use a room in the Capitol basement for a panel discussion on relations between Muslims and the West. The House Republican Conference went ballistic.

The conference provides policy research and other support services to GOP House members, and it said no way the new Democratic majority should be hosting meetings of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group it called “apologists for suicide bombers.”

Those are tough words, and they did fit a few individuals who have been associated with CAIR over the years, one of whom was convicted of conspiring to train terrorists in Virginia. But the federal government doesn’t think that troubling description of a few bad apples accurately portrays the group in general.

The FBI and other agencies have repeatedly used CAIR to build bridges with the Muslim community, and the “apologist” tag certainly wasn’t shared by the high-ranking Republican who met with the group at an Islamic center after 9/11: President Bush.

Members of Congress routinely give groups access to Capitol rooms, from environmental coalitions to organizations fighting drunken driving. Pascrell noted the building is “open to all Americans and should be available to encourage dialogue on the most relevant domestic and international issues of the day.”

Exactly the proper attitude. The House Republican Conference could easily do its part to encourage a dialogue. The conference and members of Congress who feel strongly that CAIR is indeed an apologist for evil should reserve a room, invite CAIR and hold a debate. That would be much more productive than trying to score cheap political points.


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