Sunday, November 30, 2008

CAIR: Unequivocal Condemnation of Terror and Clear Support for American Muslim Integration

Terror has struck India and the suspects seem to be radical and violent Islamists. In response to the terror attacks, CAIR executive director, Nihad Awad, stated in CAIR's press release: “We condemn these cowardly attacks and demand that all hostages taken by the attackers be released immediately and unconditionally. We offer sincere condolences to the loved ones of those killed or injured in these senseless and inexcusable acts of violence against innocent civilians. American Muslims stand with our fellow citizens of all faiths in repudiating acts of terror wherever they take place and whomever they target.”

This is a clear and unequivocal condemnation of terror that reminded me of a conversation with a former longtime FBI agent. The former agent told me that the people at CAIR "don't get it.," they condemn terror and in the same press release they mention political issues or disputes and link the two together. He added that this linkage in the context of condemnation gives the impression that they are not sincere in their condemnation and gives the appearance that they are somehow justifying the terror act. I disagreed with the man because I give CAIR the benefit of the doubt but I sensed that he was sincere in his critique of CAIR. The press release on the India terror attack leaves no room for speculation on where CAIR stands on the issue of terror.
This might not pacify its many enemies but it does help their friends defend them.

Another criticism of CAIR has been that they are a civil rights group that does too much foreign policy and not enough domestic policy. CAIR is also sending a clear message on that as well. On the 23rd of November CAIR held its annual banquet in Arlington, Virginia. The emphasis of the event was on American politics. The theme of political engagement was hard to miss. Speakers emphasized the need to engage the American society at large and get involved in the political process. Debbie Almontaser, a guest speaker demonized by the anti Muslim bigots spoke of the support she received from her" Muslim, Christian and Jewish brothers."

It is clear that CAIR is pushing hard the theme of engagement and integration . This is important because a community that is politically engaged is not a marginal community ripe for radicalization. It's important when these themes are heard from individuals like Nihad Awad, a man who is trusted and liked by the grassroots supporters of CAIR and by Muslims overseas. Awad stated that "America is not the enemy of Islam and the Muslim world is not the enemy of America." This is a message that is diametrically opposed to what the hate mongers in the US and abroad are selling. The US government has been repeating what Mr. Awad said albeit the government did it unconvincingly as far as the Muslim world is concerned. It means a lot to the Muslim world when this message comes from Nihad Awad himself. CAIR was, as result of a political witch hunt, listed, in addition to a long list of who's who in Islamic advocacy in the US, as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case.

The India press release and the banquet themes show that CAIR is becoming sensitive to its critics. Instead of investigations and prosecutions, the Obama administration should engage CAIR to make sure that their stands of condemnation of terror, rejection of Islam-US confrontation and advocacy of American Muslim engagement and integration are heard clearly in the US and abroad

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