To the editor:
In his recent letter (“Don’t soft pedal group’s ties to radical Islam,” Nov. 18), self-styled “terrorism expert” Steven Emerson wrote about the “damning links” between terrorist organizations and prominent American Muslim leaders. In the end, these false “links” amounted to nothing more than unfounded smears and guilt by association.
Mr. Emerson’s game of connect-the-dots only serves to fuel the anti-Muslim sentiment that is, unfortunately, growing in American society.
Unlike Mr. Emerson, others in a position to know a thing or two about terrorism — the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security — work regularly with the Council on American Islamic Relations and CAIR chapters nationwide on issues related to civil rights and national security. CAIR’s stance on terrorism is clear and consistent. We condemn all forms of terrorism unequivocally and without reservation.
In 2003, after the brutal murder of American contractor Nick Berg in Iraq, CAIR initiated a “Not in the Name of Islam” online petition that stated: “Those who commit acts of terror, murder and cruelty in the name of Islam are not only destroying innocent lives, but are also betraying the values of the faith they claim to represent.”
CAIR coordinated the release of a “fatwa,” or Islamic religious ruling repudiating terror and religious extremism. We also distributed an anti-terror television public service announcement viewed by some 10 million Americans.
CAIR chapters have also formed positive working relationships with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to help keep America safe from acts of terror.
Our California branch is one of the founders of the Muslim American Homeland Security Congress “to protect and defend the United States of America and all people through the prevention of terrorism and any acts of prejudice.”
All CAIR’s statements and initiatives to promote security and challenge terrorism are available at www.cair.com.
Yet CAIR’s public anti-terrorism message and work seem to have conveniently escaped Mr. Emerson’s attention, and his own missteps go unmentioned.
In 1995, Mr. Emerson famously — and falsely — linked Muslims to the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Journalist Jane Hunter calls Mr. Emerson’s brand of journalism “nimble in its treatment of facts, often credulous of intelligence sources, and almost invariably supportive of the Israeli government” (EXTRA!, October/November 1992).
His actions even prompted the group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting to publish an expose called “Steven Emerson’s Crusade.” That expose quoted a New York Times review of his book “Terrorist,” which said it was “marred by factual errors … and by a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias.” (See: www.fair.org/index.php?page=1443)
Scholar Zachary Lockman wrote: “Emerson had sounded many false alarms, made numerous errors of fact, bandied accusations about rather freely, and ceased to be regarded as credible by much of the mainstream media.”
According to Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism official, Mr. Emerson’s claims about Hamas and Hezbollah planning terror attacks against the United States are “total bull. … He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
The next time Mr. Emerson tries to link law-abiding American Muslims to terrorism — possibly because they ate a falafel sandwich at a store owned by somebody named Muhammad — the readership of the Review-Journal should remember that they can find better works of fiction in a comic book.
The writer is executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Nevada