FBI OFFICIAL: CAIR'S CRITICS GUILTY OF 'MCCARTHYISM'
A small band of critics have made a determined but unsuccessful effort to link [CAIR] to Hamas and Hezbollah. . .
CAIR and its supporters say its accusers are a small band of people who hate Muslims and deal in half-truths. Ms. Boxer's decision to revoke the Sacramento commendation provoked an outcry from organizations that vouch for the group's advocacy, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the California Council of Churches.
"They have been a leading organization that has advocated for civil rights and civil liberties in the face of fear and intolerance, in the face of religious and ethnic profiling," said Maya Harris, the executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Northern California.
Government officials in Washington said they were not aware of any criminal investigation of the group. More than one described the standards used by critics to link CAIR to terrorism as akin to McCarthyism, essentially guilt by association.
"Of all the groups, there is probably more suspicion about CAIR, but when you ask people for cold hard facts, you get blank stares," said Michael Rolince, a retired F.B.I. official who directed counterterrorism in the Washington field office from 2002 to 2005. . .
There were no charges linked to CAIR in any of the cases involved, and law enforcement officials said that in the current climate, any hint of suspicious behavior would have resulted in a racketeering charge.
Several federal officials said CAIR's Washington office frequently issued controversial statements that made it hard for senior government figures to be associated with the group, particularly since some pro-Israeli lobbyists have created what one official called a "cottage industry" of attacking the group and anyone dealing with it.
Last summer, the group urged a halt to weapons shipments to Israel as civilian casualties in Lebanon swelled. In September, it held a dinner for former President Mohamed Khatami of Iran at a time when much of official Washington had ostracized that Islamic republic. In November, the group sponsored a panel discussion by two prominent academics who argue that the pro-Israeli lobby exercises detrimental influence on United States policy on the Middle East.
"Traditionally within the government there is only one point of view that is acceptable, which is the pro-Israel line," said Nihad Awad, a founder of CAIR and its executive director. "Another enlightened perspective on the conflict is not there, and it causes some discomfort." . . .
Some Muslims, particularly the secular, find CAIR overly influenced by Saudi religious interpretations, criticizing it for stating in news releases, for example, that all Muslim women are required to veil their hair when the matter is openly debated.
But they still support its civil rights work and endorse the idea of anyone working to make American Islam a more integral part of society. One Arab-American advocate compared CAIR to "the tough cousin who curses at anyone who speaks badly about the family."
Some activists and academics view the controversy surrounding the group as typical of why Washington fails so often in the Middle East, while extremism mushrooms.
"How far are we going to keep going in this endless circle: 'You are a terrorist!' 'No, you are a terrorist!'?" said Souleiman Ghali, one of the founders of a moderate San Francisco mosque. "People are paying a price for that."