ADL attempts to defame Florida Muslims
A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today said it has learned that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recently engaged in a behind-the-scenes smear campaign designed to block speakers from taking part in a Muslim event in Florida. That state's office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-FL), the sponsor of the event, said speakers disregarded an ADL letter smearing other event participants and making false allegations against CAIR.
The ADL sent letters to speakers, including journalists and human rights activists, scheduled to take part in the August 2nd CAIR-FL banquet in Ft. Lauderdale, implying that former Congressman (R-Ill.) Paul Findley is an anti-Semite because "he labored to depict Israel and its American supporters as a menacing force." The letter made similar accusations against another invitee, Rev. Bill Baker, based on statements he allegedly made in the 1980s. In a letter to CAIR-FL, Baker, who heads Christians and Muslims for Peace (CAMP), wrote: "The so-called 'quotes' attributed to me are pure, insulting, and outrageous lies."
CAIR itself was targeted by the ADL letter, which repeated a long-discredited claim that the group sponsored a 1998 conference in New York during which a speaker made anti-Semitic comments. In fact, CAIR did not sponsor the event, and no CAIR officials spoke at or attended the gathering. CAIR's New York office did not even exist at the time the conference took place.
"It is disturbing that the ADL, a group claiming to fight bigotry, would choose to exploit and amplify existing anti-Muslim prejudice by peddling scurrilous smears based on distortions, fabrications and guilt by association," said Altaf Ali, executive director of CAIR-FL. "If we thought an invited speaker did indeed hold anti-Semitic views, that person would quickly be disinvited. We thank all those who stood up to this attempt at religious exclusion to make our event such a success." Ali invited the ADL's Florida office to enter into a dialogue on the issue of Muslim participation in American society.
He noted that this was not the first time the ADL sought to exclude American Muslims from the public arena. In November of 2001, the group attempted to bar CAIR's Los Angeles office from taking part in a hearing on hate crimes. That same year, the Florida Commission on Human Relations rejected an ADL demand to exclude a Muslim representative from an annual civil rights conference and the State of California Select Committee on Hate Crimes turned down a similar demand to prevent a Muslim leader from offering testimony at a public hearing. In early 2002, the ADL demanded that Muslim groups be denied the right to offer presentations on Islam to public officials at a public event in Southern California.
At that time, the ADL's smear campaign was revealed when the Los Angeles Times wrote: "Pro-Israel or Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Defense League and [Daniel Pipes'] Middle East Forum think tank have provided news organizations with reams of critical documentation on Muslim leaders in recent weeks." (Los Angeles Times, 11/3/2001)
The ADL campaign is not limited to American Muslims. In April of 2001, a federal judge upheld a jury's findings that the ADL defamed a Colorado couple by publicly accusing them of being anti-Semitic. U.S. District Court Judge Edward Nottingham said that evidence was sufficient to support the jury's conclusion that the ADL "acted recklessly in its efforts to publicize what it perceived to be anti-Semitic conduct." (Associated Press, 4/4/2001)
In 1999, the ADL agreed to pay $25,000 to a community relations fund and said it would not spy on other organizations as part of a settlement with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and other groups. The settlement resolved a class-action lawsuit filed in 1993 that accused the ADL of spying on Arab-American, pro-Palestinian and anti-apartheid groups and individuals. (Associated Press, 9/28/1999)
CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has 16 regional offices nationwide and in Canada.