Written Statement of the
Council on American-Islamic Relations
The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response
Submitted to the
House Committee on Homeland Security
Testimony Prepared by: Corey P. Saylor
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
453 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20003
Phone: (202) 384-8857
Fax: (202) 488-0833
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
Chairman King and Ranking Member Thompson, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) respectfully submits this testimony as part of our expression of deep concern over the Chairman’s remarks and process that led to this hearing. We believe that a sober and objective hearing will allow the American Muslim community and its leadership to shine.
There is no denying that people of vile intent covet the opportunity to recruit Americans to their mindset, pull them away from the straight path and seduce them into opting for violent extremism.
CAIR is a natural enemy of violent extremists.
CAIR represents its constituents, clients and supporters through exclusively peaceful and democratic means. Objective people who are familiar with our work know that we expend enormous amounts of legal and advocacy energy defending Constitutional principles, particularly the Bill of Rights.
There is also no denying that””excepting a tiny minority””violent extremists have not found fertile ground in America. Many individuals and institutions””including law enforcement, homeland security personnel, and the leaders and members of the American Muslim community””deserve a share of the credit for this.
This written submission to the hearing details our concerns with Chairman King’s troubling remarks regarding American Muslims. We then offer evidence that disproves King’s allegations that “fundamentalists” control most American mosques and Muslims do not cooperate with law enforcement.
Using CAIR’s work as an example, we show how the efforts of American Muslim groups undermine violent extremist narratives. These efforts include the following:
- In 2006, CAIR sent National Executive Director Nihad Awad and National Legislative Director Corey Saylor to Baghdad, Iraq to appeal for the release of a kidnapped American journalist.
- In 2006, CAIR called on the government of Afghanistan to release Abdul Rahman, a man facing the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity.
- In 2009, CAIR officials hand-delivered a letter to Iranian President Ahmedinajad requesting that he release three American hikers detained by that nation. Also at that meeting, CAIR delivered a letter to the Iranian leader from the family of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who has been missing in Iran since 2007.
We also outline our Muslim Youth Leadership Symposiums and Programs (MYLS/MYLP) and internships.
Our testimony then turns to examples of CAIR’s policy of Constitutionally-informed engagement with law enforcement. This includes examples of CAIR’s work surrounding an Irvine, CA man talking of plans for a terrorist attack, five Alexandria, VA men disappearing, “a secret training session on the use of firearms” and a Dearborn, MI man seeking opinions of Taliban and expressing desire to travel to Pakistan. We also detail some of our 2010 relations with Federal and local law enforcement.
We then offer Members of Congress insight into why there are some disputes between our community and law enforcement. These concerns include over broad surveillance of Muslims based solely on religion, concerns over FBI and other agencies pursuing lines of questioning related to First Amendment protected activities, concern over use of Muslim-Bashers as law enforcement trainers and concerns over American Muslims abroad facing denial of due process and pressure to become informants. We also discuss facts relating to the “Don’t talk to the FBI Poster” that Chairman King cites as evidence of our institution urging non-cooperation and false accusations that CAIR told Somalis in Minnesota not to talk to the FBI.
We offer three recommendations to Congress in light of this hearing:
- Refuse to offer a legitimizing platform to those who spout anti-Muslim bigotry.
- Consider funding Muslim community organization’s programs that protect youth from violent extremist influences.
- Lawmakers should investigate legitimate concerns about law enforcement tactics and avoid granting law enforcement broad powers without appropriate checks and balances.
To supplement our testimony, we offer sections on how CAIR’s Islamic messaging counters violent extremist ideology, details on CAIR and law enforcement and details on CAIR’s persistent and consistent condemnation of terrorism.
We close out the supplements to our testimony by illustrating where CAIR stands on important issues such as America’s founding principles, religious tolerance, apostasy, Jihad, women’s rights, First Amendment free speech, freedom of worship, due process, “death fatwas,” pluralism, and human rights.
In 2004, Rep. King first voiced his allegation “You could say that 80%, 85% of the mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists” and that average Muslims “are loyal,” but “don’t come forward, they don’t tell the police what they know. They won’t turn in their own.”
In 2007, Representative King said, “Unfortunately, we have too many mosques in this country.”
In early 2011, Rep. King implied that American Muslims are not “American” when it comes to protecting our nation during times of war: 1
“When a war begins, we’re all Americans. But in this case, this is not the situation. And whether it’s pressure, whether it’s cultural tradition, whatever, the fact is the Muslim community does not cooperate anywhere near to the extent that it should. The irony is that we’re living in two different worlds.”
Chairman King led off announcing this proposed series of hearings by reciting the allegation that “over 80 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by radical imams.” In January, 2011, he staunchly announced that he will “stand-by” that number. 2
In the six years since he first asserted this allegation, King has never pointed to an evidentiary source that objective observers can review. 3
Instead he cites a speech given at the U.S. Department of State in the late 1990s by Hisham Kabbani, a figure who is unknown to most U.S. Muslims.
One man’s opinion.
Kabbani to this day does not respond to inquiries about his source for this allegation. Such lax “one person’s opinion” standards led to bad things during the Salem witch trials, the Inquisition, and the McCarthy hearings.
Next, Politico reported that according to King, Ayaan Hiirsi Ali was a potential witness at the hearing.
During the course of a single 2007 interview with Reason Magazine Ali said, “I think that we are at war with Islam” and called for Islam to be “defeated.” Later in the interview, Ali suggested altering the U.S. Constitution to allow for discrimination against Muslims.
Ali was dropped once such facts became public.
Most recently, a National Review article””posted on the House Homeland Security Committee’s website so presumably King felt it was accurate””announced that Walid Phares was a planned witness for the hearings.
Phares is a former official with a Christian militia implicated, by Israel’s official Kahan inquiry and other sources, in the 1982 massacre of civilian men, women and children at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon.
In the late 1990s, leading members of Phares’ World Lebanese Organization included the deputy commander of a group known for systematically torturing prisoners. Another leading member headed a militia known for atrocities during the Lebanese civil war.
Phares was also dropped once such facts became public.
Given King’s inappropriate remarks, baseless allegations and that he voiced extremists as potential witnesses, it is reasonable to raise questions about the credibility of this hearing as a force to oppose the violent extremist threat.
In April 2008, FBI Director Robert Mueller, told the U.S. House Judiciary Committee: “I re-affirm the fact that 99.9 percent of Muslim-Americans ”¦ are every bit as patriotic as anybody else in this room, and that many of our cases are a result of the cooperation from the Muslim community in the United States.”
The following year, Mueller told a Senate committee the Muslim community “has been tremendously supportive and worked very closely with in a number of instances around the country.”
RAND’s Brian Michael Jenkins finds the suggestion of “an American population that remains hostile to jihadist ideology and its exhortations to violence” in his 2010 paper Would -Be Warriors.
Similarly, a December 2010 Congressional Research Service report cites numerous examples of Muslim community activities and federal engagement and partnership activities with Muslim-American communities.
Quintan Wiktorowicz, the new senior director for global engagement at the White House National Security Council, shattered stereotypes about Muslims and radicalization when his research found that religious Muslims are in fact the most resistant to radicalization.
“One of the important things about counterradicalization is that about perhaps 10 percent of it is law enforcement and intelligence, 90 percent of it are things that have relatively little to do with that,” said Wiktorowicz. “Counterradicalization also has to include things like politicians visiting Muslim communities, messaging and beefing up education about Islam among Muslims themselves.”
A 2010 report by scholars at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recommended that policymakers reinforce anti-radicalization activities already underway in American Muslim communities.
“Muslim-Americans organizations and the vast majority of individuals that we interviewed firmly reject the radical extremist ideology that justifies the use of violence to achieve political ends,” said the report’s co-author David Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. Another of the report’s authors said, “Muslim-American communities have been active in preventing radicalization.”
In February, 2011 the scholars at Duke University and the University of North Carolina published “Muslim American Terrorism Since 9/11: An Accounting.” The study reports that:
- While 47 Muslim-Americans committed or were arrested for terrorist crimes in 2009, the number dropped to 20 this past year.
- The number of Muslim-Americans engaged in terrorist acts with domestic targets declined from 18 in 2009 to 10 in 2010.
- Eleven Muslim Americans have successfully executed terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11, killing 33 people. This is about 3 deaths per year. There have been approximately 150,000 murders in the United States since 9/11. According to the FBI there were approximately 15,241 murders in the United States in 2009.
- Tips from the Muslim American community provided the source of information that led to a terrorist plot being thwarted in 48 of 120 cases involving Muslim Americans.
Similarly, the Post 9/11 Terrorism Database created by the Muslim Public Affairs Council in 2009 revealed that “Muslim communities have stepped forward to help law enforcement foil over 1 out of every 3 Al Qaeda-related terror plots threatening America since 9/11.”
Like the rest of the mainstream institutions representing the American Muslim community, CAIR’s advocacy model is the antithesis of the narrative of anti-American extremists. Indeed, our very public record of success solidly repudiates extremist arguments that Muslims cannot get fair treatment in our nation. Anti-American extremists are well aware of CAIR’s rejection of their views.
CAIR advocates for American Muslims through the media, government and all legal, traditional avenues available to public interest groups. CAIR staff and volunteers proactively train our community in strategies to improve grassroots ability to take their due roles in civic affairs and redress grievances.
Our moral position is clear. We unequivocally condemn terrorism. Any group that hurts civilians deserves condemnation. A review of CAIR releases covering 1994-2008 revealed that the organization issued 84 individual releases condemning terrorism in that period.
In January 2009, the United States Institute of Peace acknowledged CAIR’s vigorous condemnation of violence committed in the name of Islam in its report “Islamic Peacemaking Since 9/11.”
We are proud of our principled advocacy even when that advocacy requires stances that are not politically correct.
In truth, however, condemnations alone do not solve problems. That is why CAIR’s moral position, prompted by the basic Islamic principle that no one has the right to take innocent life, is backed by action.
CAIR has its sent staff to Baghdad to appeal for the release of a kidnapped American journalist; produced anti-terror public service announcements in English, Arabic and Urdu; coordinated an Islamic anti-terror religious ruling (fatwa); raised money for rebuilding churches in the wake of Middle East violence and called on Islamic religious leaders to deliver anti-terror messages in their sermons.
CAIR has condemned specific terrorist actions against Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Americans, Spaniards, Turks, Israelis, Saudis, Russians, Egyptians, Jordanians, Iraqis, British, and so on.
CAIR has condemned specific terrorist groups by name. On 3/11/2009, the fifth anniversary of the tragic Madrid attacks, CAIR issued a statement saying, “We unequivocally condemn all acts of terrorism, whether carried out by al-Qa’ida, the Real IRA, FARC, Hamas, ETA, or any other group designated by the U.S. Department of State as a ”˜Foreign Terrorist Organization.’
In 2007, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad joined 137 other Muslim leaders and scholars from around the world in sending a first-of-its-kind open letter designed to promote understanding between Muslims and Christians worldwide. The letter, entitled “A Common Word Between Us and You,” was sent to Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and more than 20 other Christian leaders. Awad is also an original endorser of the Amman Message and its three points of tolerance.
See A Common Word Between Us:
See the Amman Message:
CAIR uses the international prestige earned through its domestic programs to make humanitarian appeals. In 2009, CAIR officials hand-delivered a letter to Iranian President Ahmedinajad requesting that he release three American hikers detained by that nation. Also at that meeting, CAIR delivered a letter to the Iranian leader from the family of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who has been missing in Iran since 2007. Similarly, in 2009, CAIR staff spoke directly to the Iranian President urging him to release journalist Roxana Saberi.
In 2006, CAIR called on the government of Afghanistan to release Abdul Rahman, a man facing the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity. In that release, CAIR offered a religious basis for opposition to apostasy laws.4
CAIR’s Youth Specific Programs
CAIR staff and volunteers are not de-radicalizers. This is a specialized function and the psychological expertise necessary for such de-programming is not part of CAIR’s advocacy and civil liberties mission.
However, by their very nature, many of CAIR’s long-standing programs empower people, fostering a healthy American Muslim identity that fits comfortably within pluralistic American society while true to its faith values, and rebutting extremist assertions that we are currently engaged in a “clash of civilizations.”
Youth Program 1: Muslim Youth Leadership Symposiums and Programs (MYLS/MYLP)
The core mission of the Muslim Youth Leadership Symposium (MYLS)””in some areas called the Muslim Youth Leadership Program (MYLP)””is to provide American Muslim youth with a proactive agenda for positive activism; empower them to guide their communities from the margin to the mainstream; and foster a healthy American Muslim identity that fits comfortably within pluralistic American society while true to its faith values.
MYLS/MYLP sessions offer young Muslims concrete ways through which they can leverage their very faith values toward constructive citizenship that benefits community and country.
CAIR’s first MYLS/MYLP event took place in California in 2005. Between July and December 2010, CAIR held MYLS programs in Washington state, California, Illinois, Michigan, and Oklahoma. CAIR-Ohio took over 100 Muslim school students to the state capitol where they met with a state senator, toured the state capitol, learned about the legislative process and came up with proposals of their own for new legislation.
Youth Program 2: Internships
CAIR interns from past years have gone on to serve on the staff of the White House, U.S. Congress, State Department and other government agencies.
In just the last six months of 2010, fourteen interns worked in CAIR’s national office.
Beyond their professional duties at the CAIR headquarters, interns observed interviews at CNN and FOX. They also attended congressional hearings and events designed to help young Muslims network within the Washington, DC political and business sectors. Interns also routinely attend Friday prayers at the U.S. Capitol building. CAIR interns, both Muslims and those of other faiths, are immersed in the work of the organization’s three primary departments: civil rights, media relations, and government affairs.
Even one incident of violent radicalism is too many. Like the rest of the mainstream institutions representing the American Muslim community, CAIR believes it is both our civic and religious duty to work with law enforcement to protect our nation.
That said, CAIR’s primary function is as a civil liberties and advocacy organization. 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.
Like any long-term relationship, our interactions with law enforcement include some disagreements and disputes. We will detail these later in the next section of this testimony.
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. An incomplete, but extensive, listing of such interactions is presented both in the “CAIR and law enforcement” section and in this section of our testimony.
As a highly visible, grassroots organization, there are times CAIR receives information or reports from community-members that we feel contain elements that should be brought to the attention of law enforcement.
2006 and 2010: Irvine, CA man talks of plan for a terrorist attack and five Alexandria, VA men disappear
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) in its report American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat, 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.” 5 (Note: After hearing the families’ concerns, Naeem M. Baig of the Islamic Circle of North America, ICNA, contacted CAIR.)
- “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.”
2005 “a secret training session on the use of firearms”
On March 23, 2005 CAIR’s then national legal director sent a letter to the then assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field office. The letter reported an individual claiming to represent a group of 300 who claimed to be “receiving a secret training session on the use of firearms” and planned to “send some volunteers to Iraq, Palestine and Israel, under the guise of going for an Islamic conference.”
Iftikhar’s letter also refers to “”¦a meeting a few months back at FBI headquarters as to how CAIR can help law enforcement agencies”¦”
Iftikhar is referring to a late 2004 meeting between senior CAIR officials and Cassie Chandler, then Assistant Director for Public Affairs, and Gary Bald, then Assistant Director for Counterterrorism, in the FBI’s Washington, D.C. headquarters to discuss ways to improve the working relationship between CAIR and the FBI.
During that meeting, the FBI officials requested that CAIR make changes to our “Know Your Rights Pocket Guide: Your Rights and Responsibilities as an American Muslim.” CAIR willingly agreed to make the changes, incurring costs to ourselves for revising the document. Since that time the document includes the following language:
“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.”
2009: Dearborn, MI Man seeking opinions of Taliban and expressing desire to travel to Pakistan
In June 2009, the President of the American Moslem Society Mosque in Dearborn, Michigan, Mahdi Ali, contacted CAIR-Michigan Executive Director Dawud Walid stating that a white male convert was approaching youth during their Friday night gatherings. The convert would inquire if attendees thought the Taliban was good and how could he travel to Pakistan. Walid asked the mosque president to inform the man that such talk to the youth was not acceptable and that he should attempt to get a copy of the convert’s I.D.
Walid then called FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew Arena and alerted him to this issue. The FBI came to CAIR-MI’s office to get more information about this man from Mahdi Ali while former CAIR-MI attorney Melanie Elturk and current Executive Director Dawud Walid were present. SAC Arena later informed Walid that the convert was picked up by the FBI and was found to suffer from mental health issues.
2010: CA “Youth radicalization” focus group and “seeking the straight path conference”
CAIR-LA gathered a group of activists and community leaders to address the challenge of “Youth Radicalization” 6 as well as its myths and realities on January 31, 2010. On July 24, 2010, CAIR San Diego along with Islamic Center of San Diego, MAS San Diego, Masjidul Taqwa (Imam Warithudeen Community), and Logan Islamic Community Center co-organized a day-long conference for Muslim youth in San Diego County called “Muslim Youth in America: Seeking the Straight Path.” The purpose of this conference was to address radicalism and provide Muslim youth with a constructive environment in which to discuss issues of spirituality, education, social activism, and social problems. The conference provided a forum that will help them pursue a path that will positively impact the broader society. Over 100 students participated in this conference.
The Los Angeles group analyzed who is promoting this concept of “youth radicalization,” to determine what the issue is, compare myth vs. reality, provide a platform for stakeholders to jointly identify the problem and devise a multilateral and comprehensive approach to addressing the issue on a short-term and long-term basis.
2010: Meetings with Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security 7
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.
While CAIR’s record of performing it civic and religious duty to help keep our nation safe and crime-free is strong, no one asserts that the organization’s relationship with law enforcement is without points of friction. Many groups, both Muslim and those of other faiths, have expressed concern over certain law enforcement actions taken post-9/11. The below discussion offers some examples to offer members of Congress insight into why there are some disputes between our community and law enforcement.
2011: FBI Sued for Warrantless GPS Surveillance of Calif. Muslim
On March 2, 2011, CAIR filed a civil rights lawsuit against the FBI on behalf of a California Muslim who found a secret GPS tracking device that was placed on his car without first obtaining a warrant.
Yasir Afifi, a Santa Clara, Calif., student discovered the device when he took his car in for an oil change. A friend of Afifi’s posted pictures of the device online, asking if anyone knew what it was. FBI agents later demanded that the device be returned to the bureau.
The lawsuit states that the FBI violated Afifi’s First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights when the bureau failed to obtain a warrant to place the GPS tracking device on his car to monitor his daily activities.
Afifi seeks an order preventing another tracking device being attached to his vehicle without a search warrant. The requested order would also bar the FBI from using tracking devices without first obtaining a search warrant.
2011: Suit filed over broad surveillance of Muslims based solely on religion
On February 23, 2011, the Council on American-Islamic Relations of the Greater Los Angeles Area (CAIR-LA), the ACLU of Southern California (ACLU/SC), and the law firm Hadsell Stormer Keeny Richardson & Renick LLP announced the filing of a federal class action lawsuit against the FBI for infiltrating mainstream mosques in Southern California and targeting Muslim Americans for surveillance solely because of their religion.
For over 14 months between 2006 and 2007, FBI agents planted an informant in Orange County mosques who posed as a convert to Islam and through whom the FBI collected names, telephone numbers, e-mails, and other information on hundreds of California Muslims. Sheikh Yassir Fazaga, Ali Malik, and Yassir AbdelRahim – plaintiffs in the case-are three of the many individuals who came in contact with the bureau’s informant.
According to the lawsuit, the FBI directed the informant, a convicted felon named Craig Monteilh, to gather as much information as possible on members of the Muslim community, and to focus on people who were more devout in their religious practice, irrespective of whether any particular individual was believed to be involved in criminal activity.
Monteilh’s role as an FBI informant was not revealed until February 2009, first in court documents, in which the FBI and local law enforcement revealed his role, and then through his own statements which have been reported widely in the press.
The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief on behalf of all people targeted by the FBI agents and their informant, requiring the FBI to turn over or destroy all information collected through the discriminatory investigation, as well as damages for emotional distress for the three named plaintiffs
2010: Informing community of rights regarding TSA “enhanced pat-down” procedure
Following the policy’s implementation, CAIR offices received complaints, particularly from female travelers who wear hijab (headscarf), about being subjected to the new pat-down procedure. Two of the nation’s largest pilots’ unions urged commercial pilots to avoid both full-body scanners and public pat-downs. A union for flight attendants expressed similar concerns.
In light of the growing concerns about the invasiveness of the new standard pat-down procedure and increased air travel during the Thanksgiving holiday, CAIR offered recommendations to travelers such as:
- You will be asked to go through a metal detector or AIT machine in the primary screening process. TSA officers have threatened to arrest and/or fine passengers who opt out of the entire screening process after it begins.
- You may opt out of the AIT screening, but you will be given the new standard pat-down, described above, instead. You have the right to request that the standard pat-down be conducted in private and you may have someone accompany you. It is your right to be screened by an officer of the same gender.
Ongoing: Concerns over FBI and other agencies pursuing lines of questioning related to First Amendment protected activities
CAIR frequently receives reports from individual Muslims who have been approached by FBI or JTTF officers for a voluntary interview or questioning during border stops.
Some of the more troubling reported questions include:
- What mosque do you go to?
- Who is the imam (prayer leader)?
- What do you think about him?
- How many times a day do you pray?
- What’s your opinion on the war in Iraq?
- Who prays fajr (the pre-dawn pray) at the mosque?
While answering such questions is voluntary, it is difficult for outside observers to accurately assess the sense of discomfort and the desire to prove that “I have nothing to hide” to law enforcement agents that an interviewee may feel.
CAIR has collected multiple instances of consequences that can result from such innocent participation in these interviews – problems with travel, immigration hold ups, and sometimes even damage to their reputation because the FBI will show up at their mosque or job asking about them. For this reason, the organization advises our constituents to cooperate with law enforcement, but also to have an attorney present when appropriate.
Ongoing: Concern over use of Muslim-Bashers as law enforcement trainers
In December, 2010, CAIR called on Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to review Justice Department policies on the reported use of anti-Muslim extremists to train counterterrorism officials nationwide. 8
CAIR said an investigative report on post-9/11 government surveillance published in the Washington Post states: “Seeking to learn more about Islam and terrorism, some law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies.” 9
The Post’s report cites cases of individuals who lack formal training “teaching classes on terrorism and Islam to law enforcement officers all over the country.” One such trainer tells all his students that Muslims in the United States “want to impose sharia law here.”
Another trainer, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, told the Post he warns officers that “you need to look at the entire pool of Muslims in a community.” He recommends that law enforcement authorities “monitor Muslim student groups and local mosques and, if possible, tap their phones.”
In July, 2010, CAIR called on the FBI and Virginia’s Tidewater Joint Terrorism Task Force to explain why a leader of an anti-Islam hate group was invited to offer training to state and federal law enforcement officers. Robert Spencer, co-founder of the hate group Stop the Islamization of America 10 (SIOA), claimed in a blog post that he “gave two two-hour seminars on the belief-system of Islamic jihadists to the Tidewater Joint Terrorism Task Force.”
Spencer has referred to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad as a “”¦con man. Someone who is knowing that what he is saying is false, but is fooling his followers.” In the same video he asserts, “From a historical stand point, it is not even clear that Muhammad existed.” 11 In that video he asserts he is writing a book currently entitled Did Muhammad Exist. It seems realistic to ask how a trainer who questions the existence of Islam’s founder can be expected to present a reasonably-balanced view of the faith.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office refused to grant SIOA a trademark because: “The applied-for mark refers to Muslims in a disparaging manner because by definition it implies that conversion or conformity to Islam is something that needs to be stopped or caused to cease.”
SOIA has come to prominence through shrill opposition to the building of American mosques, anti-Islam bus and taxi advertising campaigns, support for European far-right groups and Islamophobes such as the English Defence League and Geert Wilders, and bigoted anti-Islam statements by its co-leader, Pamela Geller.
These are not the only incidents in which national security personnel received anti-Islam training. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) acknowledged in 2010 that an anti-Islam film should not have been used in training offered to security personnel by that military law enforcement agency.
Also in 2010, CAIR’s Washington state chapter announced a webinar on security technology for law enforcement personnel co-sponsored by Security Solutions International (SSI) was canceled after two of the presenters withdrew from the event due to community concerns about SSI’s anti-Islam bias.
Ongoing: American Muslims abroad face denial of due process, pressure to become informants
In July, 2010, CAIR issued an advisory to American Muslims””whether citizens, permanent residents or visa holders””warning of the risk of “forced exile” when traveling overseas or attempting to return to the United States. Muslim travelers were urged to know their legal rights.
CAIR has received a number of reports of American Muslims stranded overseas when they are placed on the government’s no-fly list. Those barred from returning to the United States report being denied proper legal representation, being subjected to pressure tactics to give up the constitutionally-guaranteed right to remain silent, having their passports confiscated without due process, and being pressured to become informants for the FBI. These individuals are generally not told why they were placed on the no-fly list or how to remove their names from the list. Obviously, they were not on the list prior to their travel overseas.
FBI agents have reportedly told a number of individuals that they face being stranded outside the United States longer, or forever, unless they give up their rights to legal representation or to refuse interrogations and polygraph tests.
But even those who submitted to interrogations without an attorney or to the “lie detector” tests often remain stranded.
In one case, Gulet Mohamed alleged that he was tortured while in detention in Kuwait and faced unconstitutional coercion to answer questions by FBI agents who ignored his repeated requests for legal representation. Mohamed was allowed to return to the United States only after CAIR filed a legal complaint on his behalf.
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 promotes was not organized by CAIR.
Additionally, CAIR Legislative Director Corey Saylor appeared on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor to reaffirm CAIR’s policy.
2010: Unindicted Co-Conspirator (UCC) Designation: Court Says Government Violated Muslim Groups’ Rights
In May 2007, the Department of Justice publicly named 306 individuals and organizations as “unindicted co-conspirators” (UCC) in conjunction with the Holy Land Foundation case. The UCC list includes three of the largest American Muslim organizations – The Islamic Society of North America (the largest Muslim organization in America), The North American Islamic Trust (the largest Muslim endowment/trust in America) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (the largest Muslim civil liberties group in America).
In November, 2010, a federal appeals court ruled that federal prosecutors violated the rights of major American Muslim organizations by including them on a list of “unindicted co-conspirators” in a terror-related case.
“According to one senior law-enforcement official (who asked not to be named talking about an ongoing case), the listing of ISNA, CAIR and other groups as ”˜unindicted co-conspirators’ was largely a tactical move by the government.” (Newsweek, 8/08/2007)
CAIR said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the U.S. Department of Justice violated the Fifth Amendment rights of the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), and by implication the rights of similarly-named Muslim organizations, when it included them on the publicly-filed list in 2007.
The court also ruled that inclusion on the list was the result of “simply an untested allegation of the Government, made in anticipation of a possible evidentiary dispute that never came to pass.” According to the ruling, “The allegation did not improperly enjoy the imprimatur of grand jury approval, nor was it erroneously conceded, implicitly or explicitly, as part of any plea.”
In addressing the guilt by association argument raised by the government, the court said: ” broadly worded conclusion regarding a party’s ‘association’ with various other entities is not grounded in any legal rule that would give that conclusion substance and boundaries. As such, the district court’s statements regarding NAIT’s ‘association’. . .went beyond what was relevant to the any hypothetical evidentiary issue and may have obfuscated the underlying Fifth Amendment issue.”
In re Smith, 656 F.2d 1101, 1107 (5th Cir. 1981) indicates that sullying a person’s name as an unindicted co-conspirator is a Fifth Amendment violation because it does not allow the unindicted co-conspirator a “forum for vindication”.
Finally, the public naming of third parties that have not been officially charged with a crime is clearly against the Department of Justice’s guidelines in the United States Attorney’s Manual. (U.S.A.M)
- U.S.A.M. 9-11.130 specifically deals with limitations on naming persons or entities as unindicted co-conspirators.
- The guideline states that “he practice of naming individuals as unindicted co-conspirators in an indictment charging a criminal conspiracy has been severely criticized in United States v. Briggs, 514 F.2d 794 (5th Cir. 1975).” U.S.A.M. 9-11.130.
- Furthermore, the guideline states that: “rdinarily, there is no need to name a person as an unindicted co-conspirator in an indictment in order to fulfill any legitimate prosecutorial interest or duty. For purposes of indictment itself, it is sufficient, for example, to allege that the defendant conspired with ‘another person or persons known.’ The identity of the person can be supplied, upon request, in a bill of particulars. With respect to the trial, the person’s identity and status as a co-conspirator can be established, for evidentiary purposes, through the introduction of proof sufficient to invoke the co-conspirator hearsay exception without subjecting the person to the burden of a formal accusation by a grand jury.” U.S.A.M. 9-11.130.
- Finally, the guideline avers that “n the absence of some significant justification, federal prosecutors generally should not identify unindicted co-conspirators in conspiracy indictments.” U.S.A.M. 9-11.130.
Sadly, it is commonplace for minority groups and their leaders to be painted as a threat and be vilified, even by the government. Even Martin Luther King””a non-violent, shining example of the civil rights movement who now has a federal holiday named after him and who won a Nobel Peace Prize””was branded “the most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country” in an FBI memo. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover labeled King a “degenerate.” 12
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 13described 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.
Representatives from local Somali organizations voiced their support of the work CAIR-MN has done in the Somali community and addressed the importance of civil rights education for all Americans. The coalition gathered to represent the collective voice of the Twin Cities Somali population, estimated to be between 70,000 and 80,000.
“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.
The demonstrating in support of CAIR also stressed that Somalis are not represented by one or two media-seeking individuals who refer to themselves as activists.
“We’re here from dozens of active organizations working with the people on the issues important to Somalis,” said United Somali Movement Vice President Aman Obsiye. “We represent the true voice of the tens of thousands of Somalis living in the Twin Cities.”
Organizations co-sponsoring the event included: United Somali Movement; Somali Youth Network Council (SYNC); Somali Youth Action of Minnesota; Somali Action Alliance; United Somali Diaspora; Somali Leadership Council; Somali American Community; World Peace Organization; Muslim Student Association, Augsburg College Chapter; Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center (AAIC); Islamic Dawah Institute; Karmel Plaza Business Association.
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: 14
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 is 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.” 15
Refuse to Offer a Legitimizing Platform to Those Who Spout Anti-Muslim Bigotry
Free speech is essential in an open society. People of conscience must be willing to defend speech that repulses their humanity. However, we at CAIR believe that bigoted speech should be relegated to where it belongs- the fringes of society and out of serious policy discussion.
Thus when Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) invited David Yerushalmi, the president and founder of the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE) to speak in a U.S. House office building, he legitimized a group that advocated imposing prison terms for “adherence to Islam” and questioned whether women and African-Americans should be allowed to vote. The New York Jewish Week newspaper reported that Yerushalmi “condemns democracy in the United States and, in comments that evoke classical anti-Semitic stereotypes, says he finds truth in the view that Jews ”˜destroy their host nations like a fatal parasite.’” 16
Equally, when Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) hosted Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who in 2007 wrote, “I have had enough of the Koran in the Netherlands. Ban that wretched book” at a closed-door screening of Wilders 17 minute anti-Islam film Fitna in a tax-payer funded Senate office building, the Senator presents cover for Wilders’ intolerance.
Consider funding Muslim community organization’s programs that protect youth from violent extremist influences
Muslim organizations that have connections to and the trust of the Muslim community are best placed to ensure that people of vile intent are denied the space to seduce individuals into opting for violent extremism. Whether it be al-Qaeda’s Inspire or internet videos, it is particularly important to create material to counter the propaganda placed online by violent extremists.
CAIR recommends that Congress enact legislation that would provide funds to reputable Muslim community organizations and scholars to produce such materials and programs.
Lawmakers should investigate legitimate concerns about law enforcement tactics and avoid granting law enforcement broad powers without appropriate checks and balances
For instance, a DoJ IG report released in January 2010 found “widespread use of exigent letters and other informal requests for telephone records that did not comply with legal requirements of FBI policies governing acquisition of these records.” 17
The same report finds that, “FBI personnel routinely uploaded telephone toll billing records obtained in response to exigent letters into a database where the records were available for review and analysis by employees throughout the government who were authorized to access the database.
CAIR’s work is an example of the work that all mainstream American Muslim organizations do to demonstrate to all Muslims that the democratic system of governance in the United States of America affords all people the opportunity to successfully redress their grievances in a non-violent, lawful manner. Though the organization is not theological in nature, CAIR is faith-based and its message to its own community has always centered on the “middle way.”
In an open letter written to President Obama and Muslims worldwide in May 2009, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad wrote:
“Muslims worldwide must offer themselves as personal examples of the Islamic values of compassion, tolerance and moderation. Each individual and family should exemplify the verse in the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, which states: ”˜And thus have We willed you to be a community of the middle way, so that you might bear witness to the truth before all humankind.’ (Quran, 2:143)”
CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper wrote the following in 2006 to highlight how violent responses to the publication of cartoons defaming the Prophet Muhammad reflected neither Islamic teachings nor the prophet’s own behavior:
As Muslims, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves, “What would the Prophet Muhammad do?”
Muslims are taught the tradition of the woman who would regularly throw trash on the prophet as he walked down a particular path. The prophet never responded in kind to the woman’s abuse. Instead, when she one day failed to attack him, he went to her home to inquire about her condition.
In another tradition, the prophet was offered the opportunity to have God punish the people of a town near Mecca who refused the message of Islam and attacked him with stones. Again, the prophet did not choose to respond in kind to the abuse.
A companion of the prophet noted his forgiving disposition. He said: “I served the prophet for ten years, and he never said ‘uf’ (a word indicating impatience) to me and never blamed me by saying, ‘Why did you do so or why didn’t you do so?'” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)
Even when the prophet was in a position of power, he chose the path of kindness and reconciliation.
When he returned to Mecca after years of exile and personal attacks, he did not take revenge on the people of the city, but instead offered a general amnesty”¦
The Quran ”¦ says: “Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knows best who have strayed from His Path and who receive guidance.” (16:125)
An earlier example of CAIR reminding the public and Muslims of Islam’s middle way of honoring treaties and preferring peaceful solutions to situations can be seen in this excerpt 18 from a 1996 press release relating to an article that mischaracterized Muhammad’s adherence to the Treaty of Hudaybiah:
Islamic scholars provide the following outline for events surrounding that treaty:
- The Prophet and his companions were prevented by the pagan Arabs from performing their pilgrimage to Mecca (Umrah). Instead of fighting, and despite the willingness of his followers to enforce their religious rights, the Prophet chose a peaceful settlement.
- Two years later, the pagan Arabs broke the treaty by attacking and killing 20 allies of the Muslims as they slept.
- Even after this attack, no bloody revenge was taken against those who broke the treaty. In fact, when the Muslims finally entered Mecca, amnesty was granted to nearly all former enemies.
The Quran, Islam’s revealed text, states: “Yes, whoever fulfills his pledge and fears God much; verily, then God loves those who are the pious.” (3:76)
Also: “And fulfill (every) covenant.” (17:34)
In 2002, Hooper discussed Islamically-sanctioned positions on defensive struggles, friendship with people of other faiths, and religious tolerance: “The Quran permits defensive struggles but calls for peace when aggression ends. God teaches us, ”˜Let there be no compulsion in religion,’” said Hooper. (Chapter 2, Verse 256)
Hooper cited several other verses of the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, which call for peace once oppression ends: 1. “God does not forbid you to be kind and equitable to those who had neither fought against your faith nor driven you out of your homes. In fact God loves the equitable.” (Chapter 60, Verse 8) 2. “Fight in the cause of God with those who fight against yo