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CAIR Joins 39 Civil Rights Organizations in Urging Congress to Protect Right to Boycott

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 9/10/19) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today joined a coalition of 39 other progressive advocacy organizations in sending a letter to all members of the House of Representatives urging support for a resolution reaffirming the right of all Americans to engage in boycotts.

Read the letter below or linked here as a PDF.

The resolution (H.Res. 496) names several important boycotts in American history, including the Boston Tea Party and the boycotts of Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa, and affirms the First Amendment rights of Americans to engage in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad. It currently has 17 cosponsors.

SEE: Dozens of US Progressive Groups Urge Congress to Protect Boycott Rights

SEE: House Resolution 496

The resolution was introduced by Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-MN), John Lewis (D-GA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) in response to another resolution that passed the House of Representatives condemning the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a global campaign promoting Palestinian human rights and opposing Israeli governmental policies in the West Bank and Gaza by calling for various forms of peaceful boycotts against Israel.

In July, CAIR issued an action alert urging Congress to support this resolution.


”” Letter to Congress: Support the Right to Boycott ””

September 10, 2019

Dear Members of Congress, 

We, the undersigned organizations, write to express our strong support for H. Res. 496, a resolution affirming that all Americans have a constitutional right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad. 

The Supreme Court recognized that, under the First Amendment of the Constitution, “persons sharing common views banding together to achieve a common end is deeply embedded in the American political process” (NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 U.S. 886 (1982)). A long line of U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence upholds expressive conduct and criticism of government as the very core of First Amendment-protected activity. 

Boycotts have been central to dismantling systems of injustice both at home and abroad. In defense of this vital right to boycott for justice, H. Res. 496 outlines the long and proud history of boycott as a vehicle for social change in the U.S., from the Boston Tea Party to the Montgomery bus boycott and the United Farm Workers-led boycott of table grapes, to the contemporary boycott of North Carolina over anti-trans legislation. The resolution further reaffirms Americans’ right to boycott in protest of the unjust policies of foreign governments, from the boycott of South African goods in opposition to apartheid in the 1980s to boycotts related to Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights today. Three federal courts have recently agreed that such boycotts are protected political expression. 

This resolution’s affirmation of these rights comes at this critical moment in our history: in the midst of ongoing organized efforts to stifle political expression, including pending legislation in Congress and measures to repress boycotts for Palestinian rights on the books in 27 states. More than 100 state-level anti-protest bills have been introduced. These repressive measures come at the same time as prosecution of human rights defenders, from water protectors to those protesting Trump’s inauguration – all for exercising their First Amendment rights.

At a moment when freedom of speech, association, and assembly are coming under increasing attack across the board, affirming our right to boycott is more important than ever. We must stand strong against all attempts to suppress protected political speech. The need for this resolution has become ever more clear with the recent restrictions placed on two of your own colleagues to travel to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories due to their support for this time-honored and constitutionally protected right to boycott. 

We call on you to support this important resolution by becoming a co-sponsor of H. Res. 496, thereby affirming the importance of the right to boycott for social change.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this urgent issue.


American Friends Service Committee

Arab American Civic Council

Center for Constitutional Rights

Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)

Center for International Policy

Civil Liberties Defense Center

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)


Defending Rights & Dissent

Demand Progress

Democratic Socialists of America

EarthRights International

Freedom Forward

Freedom to Thrive

Friends of Sabeel North America

Greenpeace USA

If Not Now

Jewish Voice for Peace

Million Hoodies Movement for Justice

MPower Change

Muslim Justice League

Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)

National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI) 

National Lawyers Guild

National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund

Palestine Legal

Presbyterian Church USA

Presbyterian Peace Fellowship

Project South

Revolutionary Love Project

Society of Native Nations 

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

The Red Nation

Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center

United We Dream

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

Water Protector Legal Collective

Win Without War

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.


CONTACT: CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw, 202-742-6448,; CAIR National Communications Coordinator Ayan Ajeen, 202-774-0770,; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,


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